Before the fall 2014 semester started, Annette Siemssen and Eduardo Mancinas were complete strangers. But after New Miner Convocation, they realized they had a lot in common.
That was the magic of New Miner Convocation – UTEP’s annual event officially welcoming hundreds of new students, faculty and staff, along with their families, to the University. The second annual event, held during the University’s Centennial celebration, took place Sunday, Aug. 24, at the Don Haskins Center.
“For one, we’re passionate about finishing our education,” Mancinas said. “We also love traveling – she’s not from El Paso, but I am, and we traveled a lot before coming back here. I was in the military for six years and she has a lot of military family.”
Siemssen had come to UTEP to complete her doctoral degree in Teacher Education while Mancinas was an entering sophomore pursuing his bachelor’s degree in Computer Science.
Before the ceremony, the latest additions to the Miner family assembled at Memorial Gym, where they had the opportunity to meet other new Miners and get information about UTEP’s six colleges, the School of Nursing, the University’s Study Abroad program and student organizations.
Valerie Laguna, who graduated from Canutillo High School in May, had followed all of the entering student procedures to the letter and was looking to Convocation for the finishing touches before her first day of her undergraduate career.
“I’m hoping to get even more information about the school, hopefully some pointers that I haven’t heard already,” she said. She also wanted to meet other entering students who were planning to pursue a degree in psychology.
Director of Student Success for the College of Liberal Arts Yvonne Lopez, who has had a hand in organizing both of the New Miner Convocation events, warmly welcomed students into Memorial Gym before getting them in neat lines in preparation for the procession to the Haskins Center.
“I love this event – it’s great to be a part of,” she said enthusiastically.
In addition to providing information about the University, the event’s main goal is to initiate a connection among new Miners.
To that end, Mancinas and Siemssen – along with many other pairings and small groups who had met for the first time just minutes before – kept up their get-to-know-you chat during the walk from Memorial Gym into the Haskins Center, seeming like old friends by the time they sat down.
The program consisted of a faculty-led procession through the Haskins tunnel as the UTEP Miner Pep Band played welcoming tunes. Students were preceded by grand marshal Marc Cox, Ph.D., associate professor of biological sciences, and UTEP deans and department heads in full academic regalia.
Associate Dean of Students Ryan Holmes, Ed.D., welcomed students and emceed the event with an engaging brand of humor that kept things rolling throughout the next hour.
Attendees were treated to a screening of the short documentary film UTEP: The First 100 Years, which had been produced by alum Hank Cohen as a Centennial gift.
The film was followed by a rousing performance by the talented UTEP Pantastics, who represented just one of the many interdisciplinary opportunities – joining metallurgy, physics and music, in the case of the steel drum group – for learning available to UTEP students.
Attendees were then encouraged to attend An Evening of Music and Dance from Bhutan at 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 30 and shown a short video to further educate those watching about the longstanding exchange of culture, education and goodwill between UTEP and the kingdom of Bhutan.
Vice President for Student Affairs – and three-time UTEP graduate – Gary Edens, Ed.D, spoke about his own experience coming to the University for the first time.
“Exactly 30 years ago this Monday, I walked on campus for my first class just like you will do tomorrow,” he said. “I remember feeling nervous, excited, scared and at times confused about what I was supposed to do and where I was supposed to go. I learned very quickly, however, that UTEP was a great fit for what I wanted to accomplish academically.”
Edens then introduced President Diana Natalicio, who delivered a heartfelt speech to the newest members of the UTEP community, whether recent high school graduates, transfer students from El Paso Community College and other institutions, part-time or full-time. She urged each student to ask for help whenever they needed it and engage in their university experience in order to help ensure their success.
“Wherever you began this journey, you’ve reached a really important milestone: You’ve completed whatever was required to get to this point and you’ve been successful at that. So successful that you believe that you can achieve even more. And we believe that we’re here first and foremost to help you achieve that,” Natalicio said.
Students received a new style of lapel pin in the shape of a mining pick to sport on their clothing to signify the student’s participation in New Miner Convocation. Edens took the microphone back to lead the new students in pinning on their new orange lapel pins and recite the student creed.
Raising the level of excitement, a short teaser video promoting the upcoming Minerpalooza celebration was shown next, followed by UTEP head women’s basketball coach Keitha Adams and school mascot Paydirt Pete taking the stage along with UTEP cheerleaders to express the excitement of sports as a community builder on the UTEP campus and throughout the broader El Paso region.
Holmes closed the event, after which the procession retraced its steps back through the Haskins tunnel. Students then met up with families and friends outside the arena, clearly more excited and ready to make the most of a new school year and brand new chapter of their lives as UTEP Miners.
Lisa Garibay is a writer in UTEP's Office of University Communications.