The University of Wisconsin gave a warm welcome to first-year students at the 2022 Convocation Tuesday, Sept. 6, according to UW News.

Known as UW’s formal welcome ceremony, convocation at the Kohl Center marks the start of a higher education journey and life at UW for thousands of incoming freshmen and transfer students, according to UW News.

This year’s freshman class broke records. After reviewing over 60,000 applications, UW narrowed the pool down to around 8,600 students, welcoming the biggest class in the university’s history. In addition, more than 1,000 transfer students will join campus this semester, according to UW News.

Junior Marina Kerekes, who spoke at convocation after encouragement from her speech and debate coach, shared an important message with the incoming class — you don’t need to figure everything out right away.

“I think that it really is important not to put this pressure on yourself,” Kerekes said. “We’re a very large research university. There’s this big UW legacy and I think it’s good to be conscious that you’re part of that and that by just simply being here, you’re empowered and in a very privileged position where you can go out and do a lot of things.”

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Kerekes said convocation emphasizes feeling like part of a larger community. As a freshman during 2020, Kerekes missed out on her own convocation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But even from her spot on the stage, Kerekes still felt a strong sense of community in the freshman class.

“I think that being there and listening to some of the speeches put on by university leaders kind of helps you to understand the larger goals of the university,” Kerekes said. “There’s a lot of messaging put out by UW and all of these different things [they] want to promote, but I think that these messages specifically aimed towards freshman and transfer students makes these broader goals a bit more digestible and accessible.”

Other speakers at the 2022 Convocation included Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin, Chief Diversity Officer at UW LaVar Charleston and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori Reesor.

In her speech, Chancellor Mnookin reminded the new students that they share something special in common — they are both starting at the university together, according to UW News.

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After the event, students could pick up a free copy of this year’s Go Big Read. The Go Big Read program invites members of the UW community to participate in a shared literary experience.

Former UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank chose Clint Smith’s “How the World is Passed: A Reckoning With the History of Slavery Across America” as this year’s Go Big Read. Blank said this choice reminds us to learn from the past and honor those who came before us, according to UW News.

Last year’s Go Big Read was “Transcendent Kingdom” by Yaa Gyasi, who visited the UW campus for an evening with the students.

In terms of the 2022-2023 school year, Kerkes said freshmen should cut themselves some slack despite internal or external pressures.

“It’s okay, you can breathe,” Kerekes said. “You can be a freshman for a little bit.”