Raven Harper| Staff Editor
The last time Ciara White-Sparks was on campus as a student, she was a sophomore. This past Sunday, the seniors, known as Quintessence Eleven, lined up to walk in their caps and gowns at opening convocation, a sacred tradition for each year’s graduating senior class.
“Being at the opening convocation is when it hit me that I’m a senior and that in the next seven months, I’ll be walking across the stage as a Hampton University graduate,” White-Sparks said.
The 78th Annual Fall Opening Convocation at Hampton University, a ceremonial opening of the new school year, was held Sunday morning on September 26 in the university’s Convocation Center.
Unlike previous years, this year’s opening ceremony was one of a kind.
For the Quintessence Eleven class, this semester was their first time back on campus in over a year due to COVID-19, which shut the university’s campus down in March of 2018, when they were sophomores.
For many of them, like Ciara White-Sparks, a senior journalism major from Las Vegas, Nevada, it still feels like it’s junior year.
“It feels surreal. I had a denial moment because I felt like we missed out on a year of being in person, so in my mind, I am still in a junior year mindset,” White-Sparks said.
However, being at convocation this past weekend, White-Sparks feels excited about the rest of her senior year and what’s to come.
“It felt so good to see the people that I grew up with during my time here at Hampton all in our caps and gowns. It was really just an exciting moment for me, and a great way to kick off senior year,” she said.
As the senior class prepares for graduation in the spring, they won’t be the only ones saying goodbye to their Home by The Sea.
This year’s opening convocation also marked President Dr. William R. Harvey’s last convocation ceremony as the university’s president.
In a statement from HU News, Harvey shared how special this year’s ceremony is, being it’s his last year at Hampton.
“This year’s ceremony is so very special as we will be welcoming our students back to campus after a year of virtual learning. This ceremony will also officially recognize the beginning of my last academic year as President,” Harvey said.
Last December, Harvey announced that after 44 years of serving as the university’s president, he will be stepping down for retirement in June 2022.
In his final year, along with the graduating senior class he will be leaving with, some say it’s the end of an era.
“He left a monumental impact on Hampton University’s campus,” Marissa Black, a senior elementary education major, said.
Harvey took over as president in 1978 when Hampton was referred to as Hampton Institute and has become one of the longest-serving higher education leaders in the country and a leader in the HBCU community.
Although it’s the end of an era, Black says she feels hopeful for the future of Hampton and its students after she graduates this spring.
“It’s also a sign that the future is coming and that it’s going to be something new. He’s leaving behind a legacy that hopefully whomever our new president is can follow.”
This spring in May of 2022, Quintessence Eleven will be walking across the stage in cap and gown to graduate.