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Students at the 2021 News Student Convocation.

A group of students raise their arms in celebration at the 2021 News Student Convocation, held on RIMAC field on Sept. 21. Photos by Erik Jepsen/University Communications.

Convocation Keynote Empowers Students to Celebrate Every Victory

The university’s newest Tritons kicked off the start of their collegiate journey at the 2021 New Student Convocation with words of wisdom and inspiration from esteemed campus leaders and faculty. The annual celebration, held on RIMAC field Sept. 21, welcomed a little over 5,000 students in attendance into UC San Diego’s academic community.

Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla's opening remarks.

Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla welcomes students to the UC San Diego academic community during his opening remarks.

Alongside an address from Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla and a motivating keynote from faculty member King James Britt, the cohort of new scholars heard from Executive Vice Chancellor Elizabeth Simmons and President of the UC San Diego Alumni Association Kimberly Boehm. Associated Students President Manu Agni also bolstered school pride from the speaker podium, calling for students to cheer loudly as they took turns rooting for their respective colleges.

Chancellor Khosla acknowledged the multitude of learning opportunities that students will encounter throughout their college career, each experience helping them discover the difference they want to make in the world.

“Get ready to start being a Changemaker,” Khosla said, speaking to the audience of incoming first year, returning second year, transfer and graduate students. “During your Triton experience, you will lead the way in addressing many social issues through bold innovation, big ideas, and unbridled creativity. I look forward to seeing your brilliance at work on the campus each and every day.”

Executive Vice Chancellor Elizabeth Simmons.

Executive Vice Chancellor Elizabeth Simmons shares her insight with new students as they being their college journey.

Convocation remarks also emphasized how new students exploring campus will see first-hand the exciting changes that have recently sprung up as part of the Campus Transformation. As a university where you can live, dine, learn and connect with peers without leaving campus, UC San Diego is now home to a Target store and a new lineup of restaurants located in the North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood. Upcoming campus features include the arrival of the light rail transit and UC San Diego Blue Line as well as the Epstein Family Amphitheater, contributing to UC San Diego's role as a top-of-mind cultural destination. Further, as a result of the university’s award-winning Return to Learn strategy, the campus has solidified itself as one of the safest places to be during the pandemic.

For human biology student Nicole Sison and bioengineering student Honieh Hemati, two undergraduates from Muir College who met over Instagram and became roommates, the physical experience of being on campus is worth relishing.

“I just feel so grateful—this is such a surreal experience,” said Sison. “To be here with so many other people in the same class as me and to finally see everyone for the first time, I feel so lucky just being on campus.”

Hemati chimed in with agreement, sharing “I’m looking forward to meeting new people and having that experience again, after such a long time of being isolated.”

A sound of celebration

Assistant Teaching Professor of Music King Britt.

Assistant Teaching Professor of Music King Britt delivers a moving keynote address at the 2021 New Student Convocation.

Assistant Teaching Professor of Music King Britt’s keynote address kicked off with a roaring start as he invited the sea of excited new students to join in together in a scream of solidarity.

“That's the sound of resilience and the sound of awareness of self. But most of all, it’s the sound of celebration,” said Britt. After a year filled with pandemic-related pivots, he reflected on the importance of celebrating all of life’s victories—no matter how big or small. 

During his keynote, Britt shared his sentiments on the importance of balance. As students begin their college experience—often with a mix of excitement, nervousness and curiosity—he reminded them to take time for themselves and bask in the joy of this journey. Britt also recommended that students try new things they never thought they could do, as it might become something they excel at and enjoy. He emphasized, “right now, the opportunity is in your hands to shine.”

Britt empowered students to build community with one another and reach out as they build their campus family. “Just say hi to the person next to you,” he suggested. “That could be your friend for life.”

He continued on to highlight the multitude of resources and support that UC San Diego offers. He encouraged the new cohort of scholars to check out one of the 600-plus student organizations, as well as take advantage of the robust recreation complex and variety of cultural centers.

Alongside sharing campus resources, Britt reminded the audience that professors could serve as potential mentors and sounding boards. Coming from the entertainment world and into academia, he said he is always learning from his students and finds beauty in the reciprocation of knowledge.

Prior to joining the UC San Diego community, Britt achieved a storied career with over 30 years as a producer, composer and performer in electronic music. He is also a Pew Fellowship recipient and creator of UC San Diego’s “Blacktronika: Afrofuturism In Electronic Music” lecture course, which researches and honors the people of color who have pioneered groundbreaking genres within the electronic music landscape.

He concluded his speech with a reassuring message, uplifting students before they left RIMAC field to embark on their academic careers.

“Your professors are going to help you through this,” Britt affirmed. “I am here, all my colleagues are here, and we are available to you,” he said, gesturing to the stage full of faculty colleagues and campus leaders. “'Teaching is only demonstrating that it is possible. Learning is making it possible for yourself.”