Convocation Speaker Looking to Make a Difference

Last August, when Ben Rapsas, the sophomore speaker at New Student Convocation, asked a sea of RAT cap-clad first-year students gathered in McCamish Pavilion, “Why couldn’t it be you up here, in just one short year, giving an even better speech than this one?” — it was more than a rhetorical question for one young woman.

“Ben got the wheels turning for me,” recalled Gigi Pavur, a rising sophomore majoring in earth and atmospheric sciences. “My first reaction was, ‘There is no way I could ever do that,’ but subconsciously, his message of trying new things stuck with me.”

Now, this Sunday, Pavur will be the one standing onstage, looking out into the faces of almost 4,000 Tech freshmen, transfer students, and parents, and officially welcoming them into the Georgia Tech community.

It marks the Institute’s 24th Convocation. As in years past, the event is intended to be part celebration, part inspiration, part history lesson, and part camaraderie-building. In addition to Pavur, speakers will include the president and provost, the Student Government Association undergraduate president, and two members of the Yellow Jacket Marching Band, who will give tips about how to fill out and wear a RAT cap. Faculty, staff, and families also attend, and the event will be livestreamed.

For the sophomore speaker, the stakes are high. But the payoff is even higher. In order to get the coveted slot, applicants submit a video of their speech, and a committee decides who will be chosen. In previous years, applicants were asked to present their speeches in person to a panel of judges.

After completing her first year at Tech, Pavur wondered what she would say to incoming students if given the chance. “Once I realized that I had an idea, I decided to give it a shot and apply,” she said, “because, just as Ben asked during his speech, ‘Why not?’”

Having been selected, and now in the final stretch before her big moment, she is still “surprised at myself for even applying, because this is definitely not the sort of thing that I would normally do.” She plans to make the most of the opportunity. “I don’t want to give away too much,” Pavur cautioned. “But my speech is lighthearted and empathetic about the transition to college.” She hopes to pass down valuable advice that she has received from older Georgia Tech students — advice, she explained, that “definitely made a difference” during her first year.

Outside of the classroom, Pavur seized many opportunities as a freshman, playing violin in the Georgia Tech Symphony Orchestra and participating in ORGT (Outdoor Recreation Georgia Tech) and Greek Life. This year, she will be mentoring incoming students through the KNIT Mentorship program and studying abroad through Tech’s Pacific Program.

A year ago, as she walked into McCamish for Convocation as an incoming student herself, Pavur had no way of knowing how others’ words, and their encouragement to reach outside of her comfort zone and be open to trying new things, would affect her life. She knows now.

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Stacy Braukman
Institute Communications