MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — “Nothing less than the whole of you will do.”

Andrew Forsthoefel communicated that message to incoming freshmen and new transfer students Sunday, Aug. 21, at the 21st annual MTSU Convocation at Murphy Center to formally welcome new Class of 2026 freshmen and transfer students to the university community.

This overhead photo shows the new freshman and transfer students who attended the 2022 University Convocation Aug. 21 at MTSU’s Murphy Center. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

Forsthoefel, the author of “Walking to Listen,” challenged the students to embrace their vulnerabilities and insecurities because they can learn a great deal from even painful experiences.

“Walking to Listen” describes his odyssey of self-discovery sparked by his indecision about what to do after graduating in 2011 from Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont.

For one year, he walked 4,000 miles across the United States, encountering a vast diversity of individuals who shared their stories with him and prompted him to consider how people can come together despite their differences.

“I contain multitudes,” Forsthoefel said, quoting poet Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself.” “If you’re like me, there’s a shy one…There’s a guarded one and a foolish one and even a cruel one, and what if they all have something to teach us? What if they all belong?”

Emphasizing the “being” and “becoming” of one’s life instead of one’s past or foundation, Forsthoefel said, “If every one of us and every part of every one of us isn’t welcome, then how can we learn anything at all about who we really are and who we can become together?”

“Walking to Listen” was chosen as the 2022 Community Summer Reading selection. The reading program, a service of the Distinguished Lecture Committee, was created in 2002 to provide students with books that affirm the importance of reading for a successful and fulfilling life and opportunities to interact with critically acclaimed authors.

With MTSU top administrators, deans and faculty representatives in attendance wearing their academic regalia, the convocation was the culmination of a series of events designed to welcome new students, including a Saturday, Aug. 20, Back to School Bash, at which Forsthoefel signed copies of his book in the Student Union Commons, and Fan Day, an MT Athletics event that followed convocation in Floyd Stadium.

“Today marks the greatest transition in your life,” said Debra Sells, vice president for student affairs and vice provost for enrollment and academic services. “Today marks the formal transition from where you have been to where you are going.”
MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee said the day represented “the beginning of many significant new relationships for you as entering students. You will meet individuals who will literally change your lives.”

McPhee and Sells were joined by new Faculty Senate President Stephen Salter, an accounting professor, and Student Government Association President Jada Powell in sharing words of welcome with the hundreds of students and family members in attendance, with Powell leading the audience in the traditional recitation of the True Blue Pledge.

Said Salter: “Use the next four years to draw on this the incredible resource we are providing you. Build your learning and build your personal network. … And in your spare time, please have a little fun.”

Said Powell: “Get involved. … To make it through the rough spots that come with every collegiate journey, you need to make friends and find people who will have your back. Attend as many events as you possibly can and join a student organization … or two.”

Following the ceremony, the incoming students gathered on the floor of Murphy Center for a group photo.

“I definitely enjoyed what Andrew had to say,” said Coby Castle, a freshman audio production major from Kingsport, Tennessee. “It was really cool just getting to hear him talk after spending the whole summer reading that book. He had some really good stuff to say.”

Classes began Monday, Aug. 22, marking the start of the Fall 2022 semester and the 2022-2023 academic year.