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  • E-News U. Contributor 11:15 am on September 27, 2010 Permalink |  

    National Institute on Minority Health and Disparities director gives fall Convocation address 

    By Jasmine Berry

    Sunday morning, Hampton University celebrated the beginning of its 143rd academic year with its 68th Fall Convocation. President William R. Harvey, Senior Class President Misha Lawrence and special guest speaker John Ruffin, Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, each addressed the crowd of excited parents and the Onyx VIII class.

    Lawrence implored Onyx VIII seniors to ask themselves, “Who has Hampton made you? What legacy will you be leaving behind?”

    After reminding students of the strides Hampton has made in the past year, such as being the first Historically Black College or University where President Barack Obama delivered a commencement speech, Harvey announced that Hampton is leading the way and urged professors and students to follow suit.

    He also advised students – especially the 1,000 freshman chosen from 12,000 applicants – to make wise choices, especially regarding the people students surround themselves with, and remarked, “You know how the player haters are.”

    Harvey then proceeded to introduce Ruffin, who received his B.S. in Biology from Dillard University, his M.S. in Biology from Atlanta University, a Ph.D. in Systematic and Developmental Biology from Kansas State University and completed post-doctoral studies in biology at Harvard University.

    Ruffin encouraged students to turn their lives “into a meaningful narrative,” asserting that “Your goal as students is not only to make it to graduation, but you have a legacy to create.”

    Ruffin illustrated the significance of the new Hampton University Skin of Color Research Institute by discussing the imbalance of medical health in our country. “Disparities in health are reflections of disparities elsewhere,” he said. The life expectancy for African-Americans is significantly less than that of Caucasians due to lower income averages. Income level and life expectancy, said Ruffin go hand in hand.

    Ruffin cited disparities in the workplace as one of the most important health challenges, and said that “lack of control and the stress it engenders has severe health consequences. I am hopeful that this is an area Hampton’s various health sciences can explore. Ultimately, health disparities are collections of injustices in our society.”

    Ruffin called for more students to enter the field of science and go into health disparities research to find cures for the epidemic of prostate cancer among African-American males.

    “I know of no other university in the country without a medical school,” he said, “that has the facility that you have to change prostate cancer in America.” Ruffin had acknowledged the Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute, the eighth and largest U.S. facility, said HU officials, which began treating patients last month.

    The writer is a junior at the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

  • E-News U. Contributor 2:25 pm on September 26, 2010 Permalink |  

    Convocation marks beginning of end for early graduation candidates 

    By Danyelle Gary

    Students will soon be adorning their caps and gowns for Hampton University’s Opening Convocation ceremony, but Kayla Blades intends to wear hers a tad bit earlier; a year earlier to be exact.

    Blades and a few other students are on track to graduate a full year earlier than expected. 

    “I chose to graduate early for financial reasons,” said Blades, a senior criminal justice major from Brooklyn, N.Y. “Rather than pay for a full year, I decided to go to summer school for one semester.”

    Charles Graves IV, a senior political science major from Baltimore, has other reasons for wanting to leave HU sooner rather than later.

    “[Graduating early] is a challenge,” said Graves, “and I always like to challenge myself.” 

     He is looking forward to attending divinity school and possibly law school and discovering what else is out there beyond his “Home by the Sea.”

    And, he said, “I just think it’s time to move on.”

    Graduating early is not an easy task. Finding a way to balance 19 or more credit hours – an exception to the maximum 18-credit load – participation in school activities, and an active social life requires sacrifices.

    “It’s tough. Sometimes I want to go out,” said Graves, “but I have to stay in and finish a paper.”

    Blades, however, has found a way to maintain her 3.4 GPA without forfeiting her time with friends.

    “I’m able to balance it,” she said. “I still have a social life.”

    With moving on to the career world, some students find it hard to keep in touch with friends, and for Graves and Blades, this doesn’t seem to be any easier. Since they are graduating with the class of 2011, they are leaving many of the friends they started college with behind.

    “I’m really going to miss being able to see my friends every day,” Graves said.

    “I’m going to miss my friends and just being away and being independent,” said Blades.

    With HU’s 68th Opening Convocation ceremony taking place Sunday, the official start of the last year for graduating seniors comes into full affect. It is during this ceremony that the president of the university recognizes the achievement of the new seniors and an appointed speaker addresses an audience filled with family, friends, and soon-to-be graduates.

    “I’m looking forward to it because it’s an important hallmark that honors my time here,” Graves said, “but I recognize that the degree isn’t in my hand yet; there’s still time left to go.”

    Last year, U.S. President Barack Obama delivered the commencement address to over 1,000 graduates, but Blades prefers a more intimate setting for her forthcoming ceremony.

    “I don’t want that whole ‘every-student-can-only-get seven tickets’ thing,” she said. “I just want a simple graduation so my whole family can come.”

    With the anticipation of wearing the cap and gown for the first time in front of peers and family, Graves begins to reflect on past convocation experiences, and how this time things will be a little different.  

    “I can remember seeing seniors proceed in and look forward to the day I could do it, too,” he said. “Of course know I will be proceeding in and someone will be watching me.”

    The writer is a junior at the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

  • E-News U. Contributor 5:51 am on September 26, 2010 Permalink |  

    A Convocation story: Choir’s perspective 

    By Alaya Boykin

    The combined Hampton University choirs sing at annual ceremonies like Convocation, Founders’ Day, and Commencement. The university choir, gospel choir, and concert choir members sit through tedious combined rehearsals one week before the ceremony to learn new music with complex arrangements. “A lot work goes into producing a stellar performance,” said Royzell Dillard, director of university choirs.

     “The most important part of singing at Convocation is looking like you know what you’re doing and that you’ve been doing it for years,” said Yaniel Sargeant, a senior public relations major from Montclair, N.J. “There’s not a lot of time to practice, so you have to be committed. I think it’s our dedication that makes us sound good on the actual day.”

    Convocation is really important because it sets the tone for graduating seniors. “Having our cap and gown on for the first time is that much more of a reality check that it’s our time. We’re also setting an example for underclassmen. It’s making a statement to just be there and it’s another to be a graduating senior in choir,” said Sargeant.

    Today, Sept. 26, is Convocation Sunday. 

    Chiara Murray, a senior psychology major from Newark,

    N.J., says that the choir is the live entertainment at the Convocation ceremony. Murray has personally felt the effect the choir has on an audience: “I’ve heard people say that they come to hear us sing.”

    “There’s a certain standard and choir legacy that has already been set, so we work hard to live up to it at ceremonies like Convocation,” said Sargeant. At Convocation, it’s the choir’s main goal to inspire, especially the graduating seniors. This year, one of the selections is the African- American spiritual “Hold On” by Uzze Brown.

    “I think Mr. Dillard makes selections purposefully,” said Murray. “He keeps in mind that it’s still Sunday morning and even if there’s not a spoken spiritual word, there’s still room for spiritual influence through song.”

    Both Sargeant and Murray reminisce on years past when they were in choir watching the seniors sit on the front row on stage, and they couldn’t wait until it was their turn.

    “It’s always been funny to watch the seniors in the audience and on stage get their ‘church shout’ on whenever someone mentions their class on the mic,” Murray said. “I can’t believe that’s going to be now.”

    “The significance of being a graduating senior in choir at Convocation is that you feel like you’ve paid your dues and you’ve finally arrived,” said Sargeant. “You’re sitting amongst everyone and it gives you a legitimate status in choir. Just by sitting there you’re setting an example,”

    Murray describes the choir experience as being part of a very close-knit family: “It’s going to be so great to have them clapping for me now. I feel like I’ve made it now and I’m telling them, ‘you can too.’”        

    The writer is a junior at the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

  • E-News U. Contributor 9:43 pm on September 25, 2010 Permalink |  

    Preparation for Hampton U. Opening Convocation present challenges 

    By Jade Banks

    To the graduating senior class and student body at Hampton University, Opening Convocation is just the prelude to graduation. Today’s event that marks the official opening of the academic school year and allows President William R. Harvey, the senior class president, and a featured speaker the chance to offer a encouraging words to the senior class as they embark on their journey to graduation.

    Preparation for the event goes farther than the seniors picking up their cap and gown at McGrew Towers, especially for the few selected individuals who make Opening Convocation possible.

    “Opening Convocation is an event that calls for a lot of planning,” said Karen Turner Ward, Ph.D., chairwoman of the Fine Performing Arts Department as well the chair of the committee of Ceremonial Occasions. “A lot goes into making a memorable event for the senior class,” she said.

    Ward has been on the committee for nearly two decades before leading the committee five years ago. She is responsible for orchestrating both Opening Convocation and Commencement, including the May 2010 Commencement ceremony that featured U.S. President Barack Obama.

    “Every commencement is special for me,” said Ward, “But actually being instrumental in the planning of a commencement where a sitting president – the first African-American president –

    would be giving the commencement address, was undoubtedly one of my favorite moments at Hampton.”

    After conducting such a monumental commencement, Ward is focusing on making this year just as memorable for the senior class, starting with Opening Convocation.

    “There is a lot of attention to detail,” she said, “from the music selection to submitting the press releases to media outlets. Every detail matters.”

    However, the most challenging aspect of planning Opening Convocation is selecting a speaker.

    “The challenge of finding a speaker is finding a speaker that has a strong message for the graduates,” said Ward, “One that will charge the graduates to be successful during their senior year and beyond. The speaker also must be relevant to the mission of the university”

    This year’s speaker will be John Ruffin, Ph.D., director of the National Center on Minority Health and Disparities.

    Charrita Danley, Ph.D., the executive assistant to the president of Hampton University, said Ruffin was chosen for this year’s Opening Convocation because of the university’s focus on health issues.

    “The university is currently involved in expanding its research capabilities and addressing health issues particularly relevant in the African-American community.” said Danley, “Ruffin’s position is relative to those efforts and his expertise can provide us with necessary information.”

    This month the Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute opened. The institute is the eighth largest of all U.S. centers and treated its first patient in late August. 

    Ruffin’s message is anticipated to be well received by the students.

    “Our hope is that Dr. Ruffin’s message will inspire our students, especially our seniors,’ said Ward. “He will encourage them to go out and make a difference in the world with regards to health issues, specifically within the African-American community.”           

    The writer is a senior in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

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