College careers began Sunday evening with shotgun fire and Boomer Sooner chants as the university’s administrators hosted the Class of 2023 Welcome Ceremony.
Over 5,000 students formed a sea of crimson shirts in the stands above the south endzone, representing what Interim OU President Joseph Harroz said was the largest freshman class in OU history, although no official number was given.
Harroz brought attention to physical and mental health, urging incoming students to take time to care for themselves.
“As surely as you’ll need someone to help you physically, you’ll need someone to help with the emotional strains that occur,” Harroz said, adding that “there is no stigma” attached to using OU’s mental health resources.
Harroz also said while doubts are normal for first year students, OU would give a place to overcome that anxiety and develop a future.
“If I had to give a piece of advice to my 18-year-old self … it’s that everyone has self-doubt. The only difference is how some people hide it,” Harroz said. “The line is almost never straight, but a great comprehensive research university gives you space to explore it.”
The students were also addressed by senior vice president and provost Kyle Harper, dean of students David Surratt and Student Government Association President Adran Gibbs. Surrat spoke first, sharing his own experience as an incoming freshman at OU.
“I didn’t think I would be able to fit in … miles from home, until I did,” Surratt said, adding that the anxiety some of the students might feel as they begin their first year is normal.
Gibbs said that it is okay to explore your options on campus — mentioning five major changes during his college career — as long as students use their time to get involved and make a difference on campus.
“SGA was just one of many opportunities I had to make an impact,” Gibbs said. “OU will give you the pen and paper, but you have to write the book.”
Harroz finished the ceremony with a promise to the incoming freshmen, aiming to set an example of leadership they could be proud of.
“I will strive every day to be a leader worthy of you and this great institution, I will keep students first and I will do everything I can to grow this great university for future generations,” Harroz said. “The path to success only goes through failures. (Sooners) are not afraid of them.”