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'I Am a Billiken': New Students Invited to Begin Their Next Chapter at Fall Convocation

by Maggie Rotermund on 08/24/2018
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This is your SLU, student speaker Connor Gibson told the class of 2022 at New Student Convocation and Family Welcome on Friday, and with that ownership comes responsibility. Responsibility that includes making Saint Louis University a place that welcomes, accepts and loves everyone.

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Student speaker Connor Gibson addresses new Billikens at the 2018 New Student Convocation. Photo by Steve Long. 

Gibson joined fellow student speaker Sweta Bhoopatiraju; University President Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D.; faculty speaker Amber Johnson, Ph.D.; and Katlyn Martin, president of the Student Government Association, along with the entire SLU community in welcoming its newest members at 2018’s New Student Convocation and Family Welcome on Aug. 24 at the Chaifetz Arena.

Gibson told the incoming freshman and transfer students that their SLU was a place where they found a home.

"I remember sitting in your place as a first-year student, both terrified and excited at the possibilities that college had to offer," Gibson said.

"We are all transitioning to college. We are all struggling with different aspects of our identity, values and worth. You are not alone in that regardless of the identities you hold or the fears you possess. You are here to be both loved for who you are and to love others for who they are."

Faculty speaker Johnson told the audience to take the time to listen for their calling, relating how as a SLU undergrad they listened to an adviser's recommendation that they apply for graduate school and again a few years later for a Ph.D. program at Penn State. A few years later, listening to that calling led them back to their alma mater and a position in the communications department at SLU.

Johnson encouraged students to embrace fully the different parts of themselves and find a place where they could be their whole selves, not compartmentalized versions of a whole person.

SLU’s newest class comes from 43 states and more than 80 countries, ranging from Australia to Zimbabwe. The class of 2022 has an average grade point average (GPA) of over 3.9. Over 50 percent of the class identifies as Catholic, with 488 coming to SLU from Catholic high schools and 111 from Jesuit schools.

Pestello told the class of 2022 that since the moment SLU accepted them as students and they said yes to SLU that they were welcomed and accepted here. He asked the new Billikens to shout "I am a Billiken" and turned to the Oriflamme students to show the new kids how it is done.

"We are pleased to have each and every one of you," he said, welcoming them to SLU's 200-year tradition of being a Catholic, Jesuit, international, urban, residential and research institution.

The class of 2022 is most interested in pursuing careers in the health and healing fields, with nursing, biology, physical therapy and health sciences as the most popular majors.

The convocation kicked off with the traditional procession of the University’s mace and faculty. Steven Schoenig, S.J., associate professor of history, led the crowd in prayer, asking that SLU becomes a true home where students can grow in mind, heart, soul and body.

"During these years at SLU, give us keen ears to hear and discern our calling, a strong will to embrace and pursue it, and a sharp mind to prepare ourselves for it."

Following Pestello's welcome, several current students stood up to share what kind of Billiken they are called to be.

Convocation 2018

Saint Louis University President Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D., poses with students on the floor of Chaifetz Arena following New Student Convocation. Photo by Steve Long.

The convocation concluded as the new Billikens joined faculty and Pestello on the floor of the arena.


Saint Louis University is a Catholic, Jesuit institution that values academic excellence, life-changing research, compassionate health care, and a strong commitment to faith and service. Founded in 1818, the University fosters the intellectual and character development of nearly 13,000 students on two campuses in St. Louis and Madrid, Spain. Building on a legacy of nearly 200 years, Saint Louis University continues to move forward with an unwavering commitment to serve a higher purpose while seeking the greater good.