Feature Story

August 17, 2023 | By Cole Hatcher

‘Talent, Skills, and Character’

Ohio Wesleyan Welcomes Class of 2027, New Transfer Students at Opening Convocation

Ohio Wesleyan's Class of 2027 moved in Aug. 17, representing 30 states and 21 countries. (Video by Mark Schmitter ’12)

During his time at Ohio Wesleyan University, senior Justice Clark has helped to conduct research tied to advertising and e-cigarettes and, separately, to improving screening and reducing colorectal cancer in African Americans.

Clark has traveled to Denmark and Germany with other OWU students and faculty to study the experiences of first-generation college students in the United States and abroad. He has participated in the campus organization Black Men of the Future and has been elected as the 2023-2024 president of the Wesleyan Council of Student Affairs (OWU’s student government).

He shared thoughts about his time at Ohio Wesleyan and tips for new students during the Aug. 17 opening convocation to welcome OWU’s Class of 2027 and new transfer students.

‘World-Changers of This Next Generation’

Justice Clark ’24

“I’m so excited and happy to meet you all – some of the best minds, leaders, and world-changers of this next generation,” said Clark, a double major in Biology and Pre-Medicine from Oklahoma City. “I know all of you are qualified and have the potential to succeed and excel here at OWU.”

To help the new Bishops get off to their best start, Clark shared “three lessons that I’ve learned that will contribute and lead to a fruitful and successful college experience.”

His top tips are to “start strong academically,” which includes taking advantage of professors’ office hours; “find ways to join the OWU community,” by participating in clubs and attending campus events; and “take advantage of every opportunity to advance your understanding and experience in your major and other fields of interest.” This includes pursuing internships, research opportunities, travel-learning experiences, service work, and other components of the OWU Connection, Ohio Wesleyan’s signature experience.

“I’m sure you all will learn these and other tips as you step into your journey,” Clark said. “All of you are capable and were chosen to attend OWU for a reason. You have talents, skills, and character that not only OWU needs but our world needs as well.”

‘A Very Accomplished Group’

Adam Smith

Adam Smith, MBA, Ohio Wesleyan’s vice president of enrollment, officially presented the new class and shared information about the students to help them get acquainted.

“Individually and collectively, you are a very accomplished group,” Smith said, noting that the class includes students who have:

  • Traveled to Israel to compete on the USA track team in the Maccabiah Games.
  • Spent a gap year completing a special soccer training program in Rome.
  • Participated as a member of the Junior Olympic Wrestling Team.
  • Played Belle in “Beauty in the Beast.”
  • Played Melman (the giraffe) in “Madagascar” and Sonny in “Grease.”
  • Co-founded their high school’s World Culture Club.
  • Played in their school’s Steel Pan Orchestra.
  • Researched endangered vultures.
  • Participated in three NASA asteroid searches.
  • Researched turning sawdust into cooking fuel.
  • Received the National African American Recognition Award.
  • Owns his own landscaping business.
  • Been named an all-around champion with her club gymnastics team.
  • Started a soccer camp for kids ages 6-14.
  • Co-founded their high school’s student-run coffee shop.
  • Never missed a day of school during his entire academic career.
  • Worked as a research assistant at California State University, Fullerton.
  • Performed both tap and ballet with the California Dance Academy.
  • Served as a molecular laboratory Intern with the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
  • Enjoys restoring classic European and domestic cars.
  • Designs and builds his own music keyboards.
  • Tends to goats.
  • Earned a black belt.
  • Competed in the National Robotics and Computer Science Olympiad.

Smith also shared geographic, academic, and extracurricular information about OWU’s newest students, including:

  • OWU’s Class of 2027 and new transfer students represent 30 states and 21 countries.
  • 30% are first-generation college students.
  • 59 have at least one family member who attended Ohio Wesleyan.
  • The group’s most popular listed majors are Business Administration, Psychology, Zoology, Pre-Medicine/Biology, and Health and Human Kinetics.
  • 104 are members of the National Honor Society.
  • 11 were valedictorians of their high school classes.
  • 268 played varsity sports, 116 were team captains, and 30 earned All-Star, All-State, or All-Region honors.
  • 86 were involved in theater, with 28 playing a lead role or serving as a director.
  • 137 were involved in a music group in high school, with 47 participating in marching band.
  • 8 served as editors of their school newspaper or yearbook.
  • 7 were active in Model United Nations.
  • 14 achieved the rank of Life or Eagle Scout or earned a Silver or Gold Girl Scout Award.
  • 53 served as president of a high school club.
  • 15 served as their student body or class president.
  • At least 46 were heavily involved in a club dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • 178 held a part-time job while in high school.

“You all have the potential to excel here,” Smith said, “and every member of the community looks forward to helping you discover and achieve your goals.”

After Smith officially presented the new class, “freshman” President Matt vandenBerg, Ed.D., welcomed the other first-years and transfer students to Ohio Wesleyan.

‘Challenges into Triumphs’

Matt vandenBerg

“You have had to overcome a lot just to get here,” said vandenBerg, who became Ohio Wesleyan’s 17th president in July. “You are members of the so-called COVID generation. A cohort that endured the severe impacts of the global pandemic. … Yet you persisted because you are determined. You adapted because you are resilient. And you persevered because you are you.

“In the words of the wise 21st century existential philosopher Taylor Swift: ‘Shake it off. Shake it off.’ And that’s exactly what you did.”

vandenBerg also shared information about the founding of Ohio Wesleyan, explaining that the first building on the current OWU campus, Elliott Hall, was built in the early 1830s as “a resort, a place of healing and rejuvenation, of health and enrichment.” When it closed in the 1840s, local Pastor Adam Poe led the effort to raise money, buy it and the surrounding land, and found a university “of the highest order,” he said.

“You have chosen to continue your education at an institution whose DNA, whose very soul is rooted in the mission of rejuvenation and healing and transformation,” vandenBerg said. “As you take your first steps at your new university, remember the spirit of renewal and resilience that courses through its history. Just as our first building transformed from a healing sanctuary into an institution of higher learning. You, too, have the power to transform challenges into triumphs. … Welcome to a community that believes in you.”

‘You Will Be Changed’

Karlyn Crowley

Provost Karlyn Crowley, Ph.D., also welcomed the group, sharing with them the history of Ohio Wesleyan’s motto, “In lumine tuo videbimus lumen.” Translated, she said, the Latin phrase means “In Your Light We Shall See the Light.”

“This metaphor of light is the light of learning through which you will not only see and imagine differently, you will be different,” Crowley said. “You will be changed. It is also that your light will change us, will change Ohio Wesleyan. …

“Ohio Wesleyan is calling you,” she said, “to be brave enough to see the light and brave enough to be it.”

Strengthening the Campus, Improving the World

Dwayne Todd

Dwayne Todd, Ph.D., vice president of Student Engagement and Success, shared Ohio Wesleyan’s student promise with the crowd, inviting the students to read the text along with him.

“I will embrace opportunities for academic growth, leadership, and service that have a positive impact on me and the Ohio Wesleyan community,” the group said in unison.

“I will value the time that I have been given to explore my interests and passions with an open mind to new possibilities,” they continued. I will respect each individual person and appreciate their unique perspectives regardless of appearance, ethnicity, faith, gender, ability, sexual orientation, or social standing. I will contribute my talents, gifts, and ideas toward strengthening this campus community and, as I am able, improving the world.”

View photos from the 2023 Move-In, Welcome Events, and Convocation on Flickr.