ALLIANCE, Ohio — The University of Mount Union officially welcomed its newest class of students during the annual Matriculation Convocation ceremony held Friday afternoon.
The Class of 2026 began the academic year with a ceremony held in the Timken Gymnasium of the McPherson Academic and Athletic Complex, located down the hall from the Peterson Field House where those same students will receive their degrees four years from now.
Dr. Sandra Madar, co-interim vice president for academic affairs and founding dean of the College of Natural and Health Sciences, welcomed the new students – more than 600 in total. Madar discussed that the journey the students are beginning might be challenging at times but rewarding in the end.
“In the words of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, ‘The uh-oh moments are worth cherishing just as much as ah-ha moments… Mistakes and disappointments are a necessary component of growing wise,’” Madar said.
Mount Union Interim President Robert Gervasi followed Madar in reminding students to make the most of their time on campus at the University.
“At Mount Union, you really get to enjoy the best of both worlds. As students, you can thrive in the tight-knit and caring environment typically associated with a smaller college while enjoying the expanded opportunities and variety of a larger university,” Gervasi said.
Mount Union’s 2022 Great Teacher, Dr. Nicole Johnson, professor of philosophy and religious studies, also discussed what it means for students at Mount Union to receive an education grounded in the liberal arts tradition.
“When we say ‘liberal arts’ in higher education, we’re not talking about a political perspective,” Johnson said. “But because the word ‘liberal’ is fraught with misunderstanding given the current political divisiveness in this country, perhaps a better word might be ‘liberative’ or even just ‘liberating.’”
Johnson went on to mention that she feels that three things make up an education grounded in the liberal arts at Mount Union: freedom from narrow perspectives of the world, freedom from the fear of learning new things and freedom from the notion that an education is only about one’s individual self.
“So be open to new and challenging ideas, be fearless in engaging with difference, and be always ready to roll up your sleeves to do the hard work of creating a better world for all of us, both now and in the future,” Johnson said.
Mount Union students Alexandra Cox, a senior English major from Alliance and Student Senate president, Jaliyah Mixon, a junior sociology major from East Palestine, Ohio, and Billy Parry, a senior finance and management double major from Sugar Land, Texas, provided remarks on behalf of the student body.
Cox, who is a member of the Honors Program and is an Investment Alliance Scholarship recipient, encouraged the incoming class to follow the proverb, “fortune favors the bold.”
“The great thing about starting college is that you now have a blank slate,” Cox said. “Be bold and seek out new opportunities that challenge you and even make you uncomfortable. This is how you grow.”
Mixon, who is serves as president of Mount Union’s Black Student Union and is a student-athlete on the track and field team, encouraged students to get to know the supportive community on campus and ask for help when necessary in order to succeed and grow.
“Being given the chance to come to Mount has been one of the most influential periods of my life thus far,” Mixon said. “I have grown as a person emotionally, physically and intellectually and you can too.”
Parry, a transfer student who is a member of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity and a captain on the esports team, expressed to students to enjoy the experience of being a Purple Raider and to have fun along the way.
“These four years are so special and you’re going to look back on them forever,” Parry said. “Now you’re probably going to have some moments when taking Calculus II or Bio-Chem and you’re going to ask yourself, ‘Why am I doing this?’ But trust me, while there will be hard times, there are going to be so many more great times on this four-year journey you’re about to embark on.”
At the conclusion of Parry’s comments, the students and faculty recited their respective Matriculation pledges. Dr. Bryan Boatright, co-interim vice president for academic affairs and university registrar, then took the stage to discuss the importance of the Matriculation Convocation. After learning about the significance of the ceremony, students had an opportunity to sign the Matriculation Book.
Signing the book is a pledge that students will dedicate their efforts and talents to excellence in liberal learning and career preparation. The book, which remains in the care of the Office of the President until graduation, will be on display in the University Store during graduation week in 2026 for students to see.