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MU freshmen welcomed, challenged at convocation

August 19, 2018

HUNTINGTON - Marshall University’s Class of 2022 got motivated to find their inspiration and have a good first year of college Friday during the President’s Freshman Convocation at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center in Huntington.

Brandon Dennison, CEO of Coalfield Development, was the keynote speaker for the convocation. He said his goal was to motivate the students to find what inspires them and develop their potential.

Dennison found his inspiration in college while on a mission trip to Williamson, West Virginia, with his church. While helping renovate an elderly woman’s house, two men with tool belts slung over their shoulders walked down the street to the mission group asking if they were hiring. Dennison told them they were volunteers, and he watched the two men walk away. The moment stuck in his mind.

“I would dream about that moment, and it planted a seed of conviction in me because I felt it really represented the challenge we face sometimes in West Virginia,” Dennison said. “We have people who want to work, want to learn, want to be a part of something, but because our economy has become so distressed, sometimes there aren’t opportunities to apply that gumption. That was the seed that led to Coalfield Development.”

Dennison challenged the students to find what makes them feel truly alive.

“We all want to be successful, but if your success is not tied to a higher purpose, then it quickly becomes empty,” Dennison said. “I would never tell you what your purpose is, just like I would never tell you what inspires you, but I implore you to figure it out for yourself and stay true to it.”

Marshall President Jerome Gilbert challenged the students to go to class and graduate in four years.

He also reminded them of their class coin, which is unique to their class. The coins are a tradition Gilbert started when he came to Marshall.

“Keep it somewhere safe and take it out from time to time and think about graduation,” Gilbert said. “When you graduate and you shake my hand as you walk across the stage, keep it in your pocket.”

Convocation is one of the highlights of Marshall’s Week of Welcome, or WOW, which is a series of events aimed at acclimating the new students to campus.

Alexis Burnette and Cheyenne Shaver, both of Beckley, and Calise Henry, of New York, said WOW had been amazing. They met during the events and “instantly clicked.”

The trio said they really enjoyed Build-A-Bison, where students got to stuff their own plush Marco. They also loved watching “We Are Marshall” under the stars in the Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

“It made you feel closer,” Shaver said.

They all said meeting new people was the best part of WOW.

“It’s perfect,” Shaver said. “You get to meet new people and you aren’t always with the same group.”

Henry, a pre-nursing major, said she chose Marshall because she wanted to experience a new atmosphere.

“Being in New York, I know everybody, and I want to be able to experience what it’s like to meet new people,” she said.

She said Marshall is very homey.

Burnette, a journalism major, and Shaver, a pre-nursing major, had both always wanted to come to Marshall. Burnette said it’s a family school.

“I always wanted to be part of the Marshall family, so here I am,” Shaver said.

The three said they were looking forward to game days and continuing to meet new people.

“My mom is ready (for football games),” Burnette said. “She’s got her little tote ready.”

Week of Welcome will round out Saturday, Aug. 18, with Rec Fest, which highlights organizations and groups on campus and in the city, and Taste of Huntington.

Classes begin Monday, Aug. 20, for all students.

Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.

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