By Renee Muniz
LOGOS ASSISTANT EDITOR
University of the Incarnate Word’s newest students were welcomed formally into the UIW family in the Student Engagement Center Ballroom the night of move-in day on Thursday, Aug. 24.
The new students, their families and several UIW faculty, staff and returning students were part of the 13th annual Pinning Ceremony, a traditional part of Welcome Week.
Paul Ayala, director of Campus Engagement, said he considers the Pinning Ceremony a formal welcome to UIW.
“That’s what we hope to emphasize over the course of the ceremony is that you are a part of a community of people that care about you, that will support you and encourage you to grow and develop as a student,” Ayala said.
The Rev. Dr. Trevor Alexander, Protestant chaplain for University Mission and Ministry, started the ceremony with a blessing and would come back at program’s end with another.
Dr. Thomas M. Evans, UIW’s new president, also figured prominently in the welcoming program, even helping to pin the new students – some of whom he had helped move in earlier that day.
“Each of you brings with you a unique perspective, and we celebrate your uniqueness,” Evans said. “You each chose Incarnate Word for your unique reasons. We chose to accept you for admission because of what you are and what you alone bring to enhance this learning community. Incarnate Word is greater today because you are here.”
After hearing Evans’ speech, freshman David Garcia, an English major, said he was encouraged to begin making his own mark on campus.
“Not only is it the first year for us as freshmen, but it’s also his first year as president so he gets that learning experience with us which gets us more involved,” Garcia said.
Campus Activities Board President Lexi Pedregon, an El Paso senior in her last semester as a music industries studies major, also spoke at the welcome ceremony. She shared how she transferred to UIW but will soon graduate from what she considers “the best university hands-down.”
“As you all start this new and exciting journey, I encourage you to embrace every moment and opportunity that comes your way,” Pedregon said. “Even the stressful times, tears, mental breakdowns and countless phone calls home to Mom and Dad because it will all seem insignificant in the end after all the great things you will accomplish at UIW.”
Freshman Kaitlyn Medina took Pedregon’s speech to heart, acknowledging her parents who were present at the ceremony.
“I think it’s important that they’re here because they’re always my backbone,” Medina said. “I know they’re always going to support me.”
Biology major Brandon Martinez said he appreciated the Rev. Dr. Alexander’s words of how the staff, especially
University Mission and Ministry, is here to spiritually guide the students.
Student Government Association President Aaron Chavez discussed how UIW molds a student.
“Being a part of the Incarnate Word means adopting the core values of the mission into your lives,” said Chavez, a communication arts major concentrating in media production.
The Pinning Ceremony was different to many in attendance, including those who have attended a majority of
UIW pinning ceremonies, which had used several different venues in past years from the old Marian Hall Student Center, Rosenberg Skyroom in McCombs Center, and in recent years Alice McDermott Convocation Center.
Using the new ballroom was different, but Ayala said he was satisfied with how it played out and accommodated about 700 guests. The Office of Campus Engagement plans to review the ceremony and improve the ceremony where necessary, he said.
For new UIW families, some said the Pinning Ceremony was exceptional Kaitlyn Medina’s father, Marco Gallegos, said the ceremony exceeded his expectations and was a great start to his daughter’s college career.
Compared to previous colleges he had been, President Evans said he believed this welcoming ceremony to be different because of its significance.
He said the medallion ceremony at St. Edward’s University in Austin had a similar concept and Carroll College in Montana from which he came had a welcoming ceremony, but no tangible gift.
Evans told the students, “In four years, I look forward to another ceremony with you when you get your class rings and are ready to graduate.”
Ayala agreed with Evans’ sentiment, explaining how thrilled the Office of Campus Engagement is on graduation day.
“I think that there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing a student at graduation who’s also wearing the pin they got in the pinning ceremony,” Ayala said. “So, we know that we’re making an impact when we see that every graduation.”
Roughly 250 freshmen, a third of the incoming class, were present despite the looming threat of Hurricane Harvey’s in South Texas.
“Class, you are storming into the University of the Incarnate Word,” Evans said. He also acknowledged the parents’ role in helping the students reach the point they are at in their lives.
“From everything I’ve come to know about the entering class and from my interactions with them, which was really fun today helping them move into some of the residence halls, I can understand if it’s bittersweet to send them off today,” Evans said. “Thank you for entrusting their futures to us.”