Eight thousand freshmen took part in the University of Wisconsin convocation last Friday for the annual event that formally welcomes all freshman and transfer students to campus.

“I would like to personally welcome you all to the ‘Adventure of a Lifetime,’” UW Chief Diversity Officer LaVar Charleston said at the event in reference to the famous Coldplay song, congratulating students on beginning their journey at UW.

Convocation was hosted at the Kohl Center, where the scenes Friday sharply contrasted the stadium’s role last year as a COVID-19 testing site throughout the global pandemic.

Convocation was the largest gathering on campus in 18 months. Normally held the day before classes, the freshman welcome event was moved this year following criticism of UW’s start dates falling on Rosh Hashanah

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The class of 2025 consists of 8,400 freshmen and 1,000 new transfer students, making it the largest class in university’s history, according to a UW press release

“If you all feel like I felt when I first set foot on this campus as a new Badger, it’s exhilarating,” LaVar Charleston said. “It’s also a little scary. But importantly — and I am a living, breathing example of this — this is a giant step that will chart the course for the rest of your lives.”

Chancellor Rebecca Blank said the university’s high vaccination rates and requirement of face coverings will allow the campus community to safely partake events this year, according to the press release.

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Students attending the convocation were excited to put the global pandemic behind them and focus on in-person classes and events.

UW sophomore Jenna Trucke said convocation signified a return to normalcy for UW students, especially for her and other freshmen who did not receive a full, in-person UW experience last year.

“Last year, especially as a freshman without any knowledge of what college was like before [COVID], it seemed as though the majority of UW-Madison existed only through a screen,” Trucke said in an email statement to The Badger Herald. “Seeing hundreds of students walking to the Kohl Center for convocation was the first time that I fully grasped just how large and alive this campus truly is.”

In an email statement to The Badger Herald, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Lori Reesor reflected on the importance of the UW Convocation, noting the event is the only time the class is all together until graduation.

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“I’m so proud of our students for taking responsibility to reach a nearly 90 percent vaccination rate, for masking up and for helping make a meaningful event like convocation possible,” Reesor said. “And I am so excited for the possibilities and hope of the year ahead.”

Wisconsin Welcome and Wisconsin Welcome Back Events also offered a lunch provided by the Chancellor’s Office prior to the convocation and a an ice cream social, Badger BBQ and concert afterwards.