Off to a great start

The largest first-year class in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s history, the Class of 2021 is already an accomplished group.

They are veterans, community leaders and activists. They’re champion student-athletes, entrepreneurs and innovators.

But as the new wave of Carolina students filled Carmichael Arena to begin the next chapter of their lives, Chancellor Carol L. Folt challenged the students to set their goals even higher as Tar Heels and leave their mark on the world.

“You all share an appetite for hard work, a focus on the future and a focus on making the world a better place for others,” she said at New Student Convocation on Aug. 20. “Your hard work — combined with the support of families and supporting communities — earned you the opportunity to be right here, right now. We all think the sky is the limit for you.”

The annual ceremony is the official kickoff of the school year. This year’s event welcomed the 4,373 first-year and 785 transfer students who are beginning their Carolina careers.

Carolina alumnus Jacob Sharp served as the event’s guest speaker. As an undergraduate student, Sharp and three other students formed the bluegrass band, Mipso, that now tours the country and recently released its fourth album.

“His time at Carolina is a terrific example of the promise the next four years holds for every single person in this room,” Folt told the students. “Jacob and the band are all examples of dreaming big and doing work to make it real.”

During his speech, Sharp encouraged the new students to spend their time at Carolina erasing boundaries and pursuing new opportunities.

“You’re setting off on the greatest arcs of change and growth in your life,” he said. “Having an environment so full of support, opportunities and all these graceful crash-landing pads is unique to this community and the undergraduate experience. Recognize it. Cherish it.”

At the end of the ceremony, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost James W. Dean, Jr. invited the students to open the Carolina blue envelope they were handed when they arrived at Carmichael Arena for Convocation. Inside the envelopes were the Honor Code, a booklet that lists UNC-Chapel Hill traditions and a tassel to remind them of their goal of graduation.

Dean along with Student Attorney General Jacob Friedman led the first-year students in reciting the honor pledge.

“For more than 100 years, Carolina students have maintained a system of self-governance and self-discipline,” Dean said. “This is fitting for someone who is going to make a difference in the world, and an important tradition that we expect and hope each of you to carry on.”

The Tar Heel voices closed out the ceremony, singing Hark the Sound as the students interlocked arms and swayed to the alma mater.

A bigger party awaited the students outside on Hooker Fields, where FallFast was underway with music, food and games. Hundreds of student organizations on campus, from sports clubs and language clubs to religious organizations and art groups, set up informational tables to recruit new students.

“Each year we celebrate the amazing new burst of energy that a new class brings to our community,” Folt said. “Your class is off to a great start.”

Story by Brandon Bieltz and photos by Jon Gardiner, University Communications