Shining a light on the Class of 2023 at convocation

Undergraduate Student Government President Priyanka Thakkar shared with the Class of 2023 her own experience as a first year student and the lessons she learned.  Photo by Julie Spillane / The Daily Campus

Undergraduate Student Government President Priyanka Thakkar shared with the Class of 2023 her own experience as a first year student and the lessons she learned. Photo by Julie Spillane / The Daily Campus

As the sky darkened Friday night, hundreds of freshmen gathered on the Student Union mall to mark the beginning of their careers at the University of Connecticut. 

Speaking to them was Vern Granger, director of undergraduate admissions, who described the 2019 Convocation as the culmination of the work his office did to recruit and enroll the Class of 2023. 

“Every single person who is here tonight, you are here because you’ve earned a place at this great university because of your hard work and your accomplishments, and every single one of you should be very, very proud of that,” Granger told the crowd. 

Granger, UConn President Thomas Katsouleas and Undergraduate Student Government President Priyanka Thakkar were among those who offered advice, encouragement and congratulations to the incoming class.  

Thakkar, a senior, spoke on feeling lost, confused and like a failure in her first semester at UConn. Though freshmen may feel similarly at the beginning of their college career, Thakkar said, there are always people they can reach out to for help and guidance.  

“This support is not something you will find at any other university; it is unique to the University of Connecticut,” Thakkar said. “Through our community, you will realize how easy it is to ask for help when it’s needed and how you shouldn’t be ashamed of your own struggles.” 

Katsouleas, who took over as UConn president on Aug. 1, told the freshmen the people they meet and experiences they have over the next four years will shape their lives and their futures.

“Look left, look right. The people next to you, history says, odds are, are going to become your lab partners, life-long friends, future business partners, and even spouses,” Katsouleas said to a laugh. “I know it sounds strange, but history doesn’t lie. So it’s gonna happen.” 

At the ceremony’s end, Thakkar lit a torch on the stage as the freshmen lifted their flameless candles and were officially welcomed to the Class of 2023. First-semester biological sciences major Brianna Mastroianni said that moment was her favorite part of convocation. 

“I especially liked when we all put our candles up in the air,” Mastroianni said. “I was getting chills at lots of moments.”  

Her roommate, first-semester molecular and cell biology major Gabby Barish, said she appreciated Thakkar saying everyone feels nervous and overwhelmed when they begin college. 

“These feelings that you’re having, like, you’re not alone,” Barish said. “‘Everyone’s feeling the same way.” 


Gabriella DeBenedictis is the news editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at gabriella.debenedictis@uconn.edu.