Actress, activist and philanthropist Holly Robinson Peete has been chosen to speak at this year’s Freshman Convocation.
Peete will talk about autism spectrum disorder, which will compliment this year’s freshman common reading book, Mark Haddon’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.”
Tom Piernik, director of Student Development and International Programs and chair of CSUN’s Freshman Convocation said Peete was chosen for her expertise in autism.
“She is probably now the most successful advocate of issues surrounding autism. Be it individual rights, education, or family support,” he said.
Peete was recently a “successful contender” on NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice,” Piernik said.
Peete has a set of fraternal twins. Her son Charlie has autism while her daughter, Callie, does not.
Having an autistic child “has completely transformed her life,” Piernik said.
Peete and husband Rodney Peete formed the HollyRod Foundation in 1996.
Peete and her daughter have also written a children’s book called “My Brother Charlie.”
“The idea of the convocation is a coming together of the campus, in this case, the coming together is to welcome the freshman class,” Piernik said.
Piernik said the intention is to give freshmen a sense of their academic importance and instill the fact that they can learn everywhere on this campus, not just in the classroom.
“We’re also hoping that they get a sense of spirit, camaraderie and the joy of being a Matador,” Piernik said. “It’s also pride building.”
While it is called the “Freshman Convocation,” all students, faculty and staff are invited to attend the event.
Some students said they would not attend the convocation because the whole point is to raise money.
David Faramarzi, a 21-year-old junior business major said he will not attend.
“It’s just another person just saying another speech about donations,” he said. “The underlying cause of it is donations.”
Faramarzi said he does donate to causes.
“I don’t have to go and hear another speech,” Faramarzi said. “I could just target a few causes, like three or four of them, and just put my time and effort into them.”
Other students, however, do want to attend the convocation because of Peete’s influence to fundraise for a cause like autism.
Freshman Katie Chaka, a 20-year-old history major said the convocation would be a good way to meet people because a lot of freshmen are going.
“I would want to go because I know somebody who’s autistic,” she said. “So, I would think it is informational and cool, and I think it’s neat that she’s raising money for that.”
Upper-level students also show interest in attending the celebrations.
Georgette Artiga, 19-year-old sophomore said she wants to meet the freshmen because she knows what they are going through.
“I probably would (go) just because of the power that (Peete) has over raising lots of money for important issues that are all over every community,” she said. “It hits everybody.”
The convocation usually has the author of the freshmen common reading book speak at the event, but this year’s author does not do public speaking or appearances, Piernik said.
“We had to find another person who had a message that might be one that would illuminate the topic of the book,” Piernik said.
Freshmen are to meet in Matador Square between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. and walk to the Oviatt Library together, Piernik said.
A reception will follow with food, music and giveaways. Peete will be autographing copies of the book at the reception following the event.