Spalding University’s new freshmen were encouraged to get involved and make the most of their college experience during Thursday’s annual Convocation ceremony for first-year students at the Columbia Gym Auditorium.

The entire new freshman class gathered to hear words of advice and encouragement from Spalding Board of Trustees Chair Jim Rissler, Undergraduate Education Dean Dr. Tomarra Adams, Psychology Professor Dr. Steven Kniffley, alumna Chrystal Hawkins, Student Government Association President Haley Nestor, student leader Victor Edwards, University President Tori Murden McClure and adviser Jimmy Rowland.

They were given an explanation of the Spalding mission statement, and McClure presented each freshman with a mission coin to serve as a reminder of the importance of diversity, learning, spirituality, service, peace and justice at the institution. Years from now, when the same students graduate, they’ll be encouraged to give the coin to a person who influenced them and helped them on their college journey.

Nestor, a junior, said she has felt drawn to Spalding’s mission and sense of community since she began college.

“I strive to have the success that men and women from Spalding have had in previous years,” she said. “I share in being spiritually grounded in my everyday tasks, and I take huge pride in wearing ‘Spalding University’ across my chest when I’m off campus or going through the finish line at a cross country meet when I can’t breathe. So my question to you is, ‘How will you live it, share it and take pride in being a Golden Eagle?'”

Edwards said he had no idea what to expect when he moved from Florida to Spalding his freshman year, but he made a point on taking on new responsibilities and experiencing new things, including volunteering for a nonprofit, taking difficult courses outside his major, and becoming a residence hall adviser.

“I want you to notice opportunities that come up for you as a college student and take a leap of faith and decide to say yes to some of those opportunities,” he said.

Tanner Dewitt, a freshman secondary education major from Hancock County High School, said Edwards’ message stood out to him.

“It was really motivating,” Dewitt said. “He told us to go out there and explore things, not just go with our usual routine and go to classes and go back to the dorms and study but to also get involved with stuff, different clubs and activities. (Convocation) motivated me to do that as well as to learn more about the community, enjoy it and learn from my mistakes while I’m here.”

Jillian Moorefield, a criminal justice studies major from Indiana’s Floyd Central High School, had a similar takeaway from Convocation.

“I think the main message that I found interesting was getting involved in things you’re uncomfortable with,” she said. “That’s something that my dad has always told me, ‘Get involved, and push your boundaries so that you can better yourself.'”


Spalding University’s first-year students have been on campus and in class for a couple weeks at this point, but on Wednesday, they got another warm welcome, more well wishes and an extended lesson on Spalding’s mission during the university’s annual Convocation ceremony.

All of Spalding’s new freshmen filled into the lower level of the Columbia Gym Auditorium to hear speeches from President Tori Murden McClure and others about making the most of their college experience.

McClure gave an in-depth explanation of the Spalding mission statement – reading it aloud, then expanding on it line by line.

“Spalding is a diverse community of learners,” she said, referring to the first line. “Look around. We value diversity. We want to learn from all kinds of voices, and we want to hear yours. Disagreement is not a sign of trouble; disagreement is a sign of thinking.”

She said Spalding works to meet the needs of the times in the tradition of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and values compassion, the Golden Rule and a commitment to service, peace and justice.

“Here’s a secret,” she said. “The world’s not going to make you happy. It’s up to you. You’re in charge of your happiness. It’s all about attitude, all about being, all about finding your mission and finding your heart. … While you are here, I hope you find your mission.”

Then, as has become tradition at Convocation, McClure distributed bronze coins to all the new students that are engraved with the Spalding symbol on one side and key tenets of the Spalding mission on the other.

“It was really inspiring,” first-year psychology major Haley Logsdon said of Convocation. “I like to collect things that mean something to me, and I’ll put them on my dresser or somewhere where I’ll see them every day, and I’ll do that (with the coin).”

She continued: “When I was in high school and thought about going to college, I kind of  thought of  it as just a stressful experience just to get a degree and stuff like that. But now that I’m here, I see that it’s also about making relationships with people around you and about making a difference.”

Other speakers at the event were Peace and Restorative Services Director Chandra Irvin, new Dean of Undergraduate Education Tomarra Adams, Liberal Studies faculty member Deonte Hollowell, Spalding social work alumna Tanaa Davis, Student Government President Scotty Brooks, current student and peer mentor Shianne Davis, International Student Coordinator Sister Margaret Rodericks, SCN, and First-year Experience Coordinator Jeffrey Cross.

“The mission of Spalding is to make a difference in the world,” Tanaa Davis told the freshmen. “You all each have something different to contribute to make this world a better place. Here at Spalding, you can actually make things happen. This is the make-it-happen type of university.

“If you have an idea or a vision that you want to bring to pass, this is the place to do it, and this is the place where you’ll have the foundation for your purpose in life. You’re going to find your purpose in life here, I promise.”

Smiling man Jeffrey Cross) and woman Spalding President Tori McClure) stand and distribute Spalding Mission coins to three female freshman college students
President Tori McClure and First-year Experience Coordinator Jeffrey Cross distributed Spalding Mission Coins to freshmen during Convocation.
Dozens of college faculty and staff stand outside along the steps of Columbia Gym as college students file out and walk past
Spalding faculty and staff gave high-fives and applause to first-year students as they filed out of the Columbia Gym after Convocation.

A few weeks into their lives as college students, Spalding University freshmen were given a greater sense about the mission of their new school and their importance in contributing to that common cause at Convocation.

On Sept. 6, the entire freshman class attended Spalding’s third annual Convocation ceremony at the University Center Auditorium. The first-year students were officially welcomed to campus and given advice from administrators and current and former students.

Spalding President Tori Murden McClure presented each first-year student with a coin engraved with key words from the university mission statement: diversity, learners, spirituality, service, peace and justice.

McClure instructed the students to rely on others and to surround themselves with dynamic people because the close relationships they foster will have the biggest influence on their lives and character.

“Surround yourself with people who fill you up, not who attempt to tear you down,” she said. “… One of the things I really enjoy is surrounding myself with people who are better than I am at something. … I can learn from them.”

The freshmen were told to hold onto their coin for the next four years, then upon graduating, give it to a person they consider a mentor.

“I got a lot out of (Convocation),” said nursing major LeeAnn Weppler, who was one of 174 freshmen to register for classes this semester. “I was able to really see what Spalding was about and to see how the mission statement actually stays true to the faculty … I’m meeting so many diverse people, and everybody is so nice here. It’s an awesome community, and I’m so glad I chose Spalding.”

Another new nursing major, Callie Mansfield of Whiting, Indiana, said she was drawn to McClure’s message.

“From the first time I came here, I’ve looked up to her,” said Mansfield, who plays softball for the Golden Eagles. “Even though she has accomplished so many great things, she just keeping going. … That’s why I look up to her. … She’s an amazing role model.”

Recent alumna Crystal White, who earned her Master of Science in Occupational Therapy in June, gave a memorable speech about staying dedicated to academic pursuits, even in the face of tragedy.

White, a Louisville native who attended Moore High School, said two of her friends were killed and her brother paralyzed from the waist down during a shooting in Nicholasville, Kentucky, in May.

At the time, White was only weeks away from completing her degree and was wrapping up classwork and a research project.

Despite the adversity, she stayed on course and got her master’s degree with a 3.75 grade-point average.

“I didn’t share this story with you for sympathy,” she told the first-year students, “but to remind you that perseverance is the hard work you do after the hard work you’ve already done.”

She added: “If I can make it, you can, too.”