Traditions old and new welcome UChicago students to campus

Undergraduates embark on intellectual journeys through O-Week events

On Wednesday, students, family and friends attended the University of Chicago’s Opening Convocation, hosted for the first time on the Main Quadrangles. As the College’s formal welcome for first-year undergraduates, this year’s event celebrated the accomplishments and resilience of the Class of 2025 while offering a look forward to the years ahead.

In his first public address to the University community, President Paul Alivisatos fondly recalled his own arrival on campus and the years of education that followed.

“I can tell you that some of the most important parts of what the University offers are truly in the College,” said Alivisatos, who graduated in 1981 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. “My heart will always be with you, the students of the College, because that’s where I first experienced this amazing University, and it changed my life forever.”

Alivisatos also reflected on how his time in the College taught him how to engage with any type of knowledge he encountered. He attributed much of that to the distinctive Core curriculum, an aspect of a UChicago education that truly transforms students and prepares them to be leaders in their communities.

“Part of creating and sharing and learning how to know is, in fact, the ability to think about anything, and so we are deeply committed to academic freedom and to free expression,” he said. “As you go through the University, and you engage in those debates—and I hope that they are fierce—I hope you carry in your mind to always be mindful of how to create an environment that makes everybody feel included, and that they truly belong. That's an important responsibility that everyone bears inside this University.”

John W. Boyer, dean of the College, concluded the ceremony by welcoming first-year students into the global community of UChicago scholars.

“In joining this particular community, you become a member of one of the world's great universities,” he said. “Not only because of the scholarly ancestors whom you can claim and because of the distinguished women and men who will teach you, but also because you yourselves will add to the great reservoir of talent and interest and commitment that is at the core of any great university.” 

As the University Motet Choir sang the alma mater, students said heartfelt goodbyes to family and friends, then marched behind a bagpipe quartet through Hull Gate to join their peers for their first moments as official members of the Class of 2025.

On Thursday, Sept. 23, Assoc. Prof. Kimberly Kay Hoang delivered the annual Aims of Education address in Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. An award-winning sociologist, Hoang spoke in front of a small group of first-year students, while all other students in the College watched from their residence halls. “If you take this journey of self-discovery seriously,” she said, “you will pave your own path that brings all of your unique interests together.”

As an introduction to UChicago’s distinctive style of learning, all first-years then discussed the address with faculty members in colloquia at their residence halls—their first opportunity to engage in the kind of open discussion and creative inquiry that will become a hallmark of their education in the College.

Incoming graduate students kicked off the school year this week with Welcome Convocation on Sept. 21. UChicago undergraduates in the Class of 2025 began moving into residence halls on the same day.

O-Week will also include 2024: Rising, a lineup of events beginning Sept. 24 for second-year students to engage with the UChicago community and reacquaint themselves with in-person learning. Later this quarter, members of the Class of 2024 will celebrate their achievements with their own bagpipe procession through Hull Gate.

With adherence to public health guidelines, many other traditions of O-Week returned this year, including the Logan Center O-Party and College Night at the Museum of Science and Industry. Autumn Quarter classes begin on Sept. 27.