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Lori Wolfe/The Herald-Dispatch Marshall University Freshman Convocation was held Friday, Aug. 23, 2019, at the Keith Albee Performance Arts Center in Huntington.

HUNTINGTON — As he prepared to head to Marshall University for his freshman year, Bradley Johnson, of Hurricane, West Virginia, turned to his cousin, already attending Marshall, for advice.

"She said Week of Welcome was the best three days and some of her favorite memories," Johnson said Friday.

"She said it was a really welcoming and informative experience. I'm having a similar experience."

The Class of 2023 was officially welcomed as sons and daughters of Marshall on Friday morning during the President's Freshman Convocation following nearly a week of events aimed at acclimating them to campus. Despite rain, the students marched down 4th Avenue with President Jerome Gilbert and the Marching Thunder drumline to the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center.

The keynote speaker was Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader, a Marshall alumna.

Rader welcomed the new students to the city, which she described as progressive and vibrant.

"As a university, I like to describe Marshall as resourceful and unassuming," Rader said. "Where others see problems, our professors see solutions, and they have been heavily involved in solutions when dealing with the opioid crisis. They provide an enriched learning environment that is diverse, and frankly, quite awesome. Yet you rarely hear any boasting or bragging from Marshall University."

Rader said the university and the city have a synergistic relationship with each other.

"Together we are resilient and we have overcome disaster at great odds," she said.

She said they hope that when the students graduate, they choose to stay in Huntington, or at least West Virginia.

Rader also gave the new college students some tips for success, including don't be afraid to fail, always be kind, be humble, persevere and do one good deed a day.

"And finally - I'm a firefighter, so I have to add this one in there - never leave a candle unattended," she said.

Kayla Sprouse, of Ritchie County, West Virginia, said convocation was interesting and she enjoyed learning who else was a Marshall grad.

Sprouse said she is studying medical imaging.

"Not a lot of places have medical imagining and (Marshall) has such a small, yet big campus," Sprouse said. "It's easy to find your way around, and it's really nice."

Johnson, a marketing major, said his dad went to Marshall and he grew up with Marshall spirit, but he inevitably chose Marshall because it was so welcoming.

"I knew people that went here, and they only had great things to say," he said.

His favorite part of Week of Welcome, he said, was beginning UNI 100, an introduction to Marshall and college life that all first-year students must take. They get one elective credit for completion. Johnson said the other students in his class are why it's his favorite.

Sprouse's favorite part of the week was a DIY pour art class, similarly because she got to meet new people.

Week of Welcome wraps up Saturday, Aug. 24, with Rec Fest, which brings campus and community organizations together for students. Upperclassmen move back to campus Saturday as well, with classes beginning Monday, Aug. 26.

Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.

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