?Nickled and Dimed? author Barbara Ehrenreich encourages students at convocation

The incoming freshman class gathered in front of the Oviatt Library at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sep. 4 for the second annual Freshman Convocation.

Terry Piper, vice president of Student Affairs, kicked off the ceremony by introducing the platform party and speakers: Jolene Koester, university president; Moya Smith, outstanding graduating senior and Barbara Ehrenreich, author of ‘Nickel and Dimed.’

Ehrenreich discussed her book, which deals with poverty in America and her own attempt to survive on minimum-wage retail and service jobs. She reminded students that one of the reasons they attend college is to avoid low-income jobs and to open up opportunities.

‘I calculate that I would have had to work 5,000 years at Wal-Mart to make what the CEO makes in one year,’ she said.

Ehrenreich also challenged students to never forget their roots. ‘I want you to promise me one thing right now,’ she said. ‘That however far you go in life, that you will never forget where you came from. That you will never forget the struggles and hard work of your parents and your grandparents.’

‘Soak up every bit of knowledge and skill so you can go out there and raise hell,’ she said.

Smith, who spoke before Ehrenreich, discussed the challenges she overcame while earning her degree in Pan-African studies.

‘While in college you’re going to go through many challenges and obstacles,’ she said, and went on to describe how she defied the odds.

‘I shouldn’t be here. I grew up poor, I’m an African-American, I’m a woman, my mother was on drugs and my dad was incarcerated. For those five reasons right there I should not be here,’ she said.

‘What you have to remember is whatever you went through, whatever your challenges were, it’s an element in your life. It does not define who you are. You define who you are,’ said Smith.

Smith also offered the freshman class tips for academic success: Be ready to work on day one, ask for help, form study groups, take an ethnic studies class and dispel self-doubt.

After the speeches, Associated Students President Miguel Segura informed the freshmen that they would be the first incoming class to sing CSUN’s alma mater with the student group, Acasola.

‘I want you guys to show CSUN that fall ’08 freshmen, you guys, are hip and cool, and you guys are bringing school pride to our campus by singing the alma mater as a 50th birthday present to our university,’ said Segura.

The reception was followed by free food and music by Ric Alviso and the Maranga Marimba Ensemble on the Oviatt Library portico. The CSUN Jazz A Band directed by Matt Harris also performed during the convocation.