New Beginnings

Brittney Cottingham

Nancy Hunter Denney motivates incoming students at the New Student Convocation Tuesday. (Photo by Kassie Bruton)

Fellow students, faculty, administrators and even the mayor of Wichita Falls officially welcomed new students to MSU last Tuesday at this year’s New Student Convocation ceremony in the Fain Fine Arts Theater.

Dr. Jesse Rogers, university president, reassured students that they were not there by chance. According to Rogers, 3,800 new students applied to Midwestern for Fall 2011, but fewer than 2,500 were accepted.

Tuesday’s convocation marked a rare appearance Glen Barham, mayor of Wichita Falls, was in attendance, encouraging the class of 2015 to get involved in campus and community activities.

“According to young people, there is nothing to do in Wichita Falls,” Barham said. “Well, I am here to tell you that is not true.”

But it was the high-energy and unique perceptive of keynote speaker Nancy Hunter Denney that got freshmen Cash Witt more focused for the new school year.

Witt is the first from his family to attend college and said he was scared about leaving home for the first time.

“This week has been a whirlwind of emotions that I can’t put into words,” Witt said. “But really listening to what Mrs. Denney had to say really hit home for me. I know that I will walk into class tomorrow more confident in my abilities than before.”

Denney, who has spoken to over 900 campuses across the nation, said she was really impressed about the MSU crowd.

“The last 20 years as a speaker and interacting with students keeps me in touch with that students are in touch with.” Denney said. “I am at my best when I am in a room of college students. I have a real passion for their capacity to work on themselves, to want more, and to become better. Yet I don’t think half the people I speak to understand how great they are. So I really get a kick out of trying to build up students self esteem.”

Before becoming a professional public speaker, Denney had acquired 12 years of higher education experience in student affairs including Greek life, new student orientation and the assistant dean of students. She applies these elements to her speaking engagements.

“I think the way (my past work experience) helps me best on stage because I know what the people who brought me in want me to do because I understand the context of the presentation,” Denney said.

The Massachusetts mother of two college students shared the memories of taking her kids to college for the first time to add insight to the new students.

“I have learned from my kids that students learn at their own pace,” Denney said. “I think college students find what they are good at eventually.”

Denney gave the students tips on how to have a trouble-free transition from high school to college life.

With a refreshing scene of humor, the published author who has previously appeared with Dr. Phil and Suze Orman, found the perfect balance between laughs and her overall message.

After receiving a standing ovation, New Student Convocation was followed by a Bloc Party where students continued to praise her lessons on life.

“When speakers come to campus it seems like they are preaching to you,” freshman Terran Morgan said. “She was far from that. As an audience member, it was obvious that she went out of her way to connect with us and I’d say she succeeded. After the Convocation, I feel warmly welcomed to MSU and excited for the next four years here.”