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Events welcome students, new mascot

Nigel at Student Convocation 2014
Students pose with Nigel the Nighthawk during his debut on UNG's Dahlonega Campus.

Nigel the Nighthawk, the new mascot for the University of North Georgia (UNG), made his much-anticipated debut last week at student convocation events on two of the university's campuses.

UNG's Dahlonega Campus kicked off the welcome Monday morning as new freshmen were escorted through the freshman arch, the smaller of two openings in the arch that marks the historic entrance to the campus. The larger opening is traditionally used by upperclassmen and alumni of the university.

As the freshmen and their fellow students made their way into Memorial Hall gymnasium, they were greeted by Nigel and teams of student helpers. The gym nearly filled to capacity by the beginning of the event, and students cheered as Nigel made laps around the floor.

UNG President Bonita Jacobs welcomed the students and gave a special welcome to freshmen, designating them as the class of 2018. "This is the best class in the history of our institution. Our students are leaders and are succeeding around the globe," she said.

Dr. Patricia Donat, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, encouraged students with words matched to the overall theme of this year's welcoming events — support.

"When looking at your applications, we extended an offer of admission to you because we saw great potential in you," Donat said. "We encourage you to take advantage of all that UNG has to offer."

UNG's Gainesville Campus also welcomed students Monday morning, holding the Welcome Back Picnic in the student center commons. Students mingled with Nigel, faculty and staff and each other while learning about the campus, university, and the many resources available to them.

The Oconee Campus will hold a new event, called Nighthawks UNight, for students, faculty and staff on Wednesday, Aug. 27 at 6:30 p.m. on the quad. The event will include a performance by UNG's Blue Ridge Rifles, Nigel's campus debut, a free dinner provided by Zaxby's, and presentations from students and departments showcasing various student resources.

Freshman Move-In
Sydney Smith prepares to move into her new dorm.

"As a non-residential campus, our first convocation is a model of extended orientation," said Dr. Michelle Brown, assistant vice president and dean of student affairs for the Oconee Campus. "The primary goal is for students to leave feeling more connected to our local and campus community. We also hope that they will leave knowing more about our resources and ways to be engaged and involved on campus and in partnerships with our local community."

The Dahlonega Campus held Freshman Move-In day Aug. 15 to help residential freshmen acclimate to their new homes before beginning classes this week.

"I'm looking forward to having my own space and to meeting lots of new people," said Sydney Smith, representing a third generation of her family to attend UNG. "I love downtown and having so many neat places close by, and the campus and its surroundings are very pretty."

Besides being generally excited for the beginning of the semester, many students are also looking forward to events held throughout the year.

"I'm most excited for rush next semester," said Catherine Daab, referring to the period when fraternities and sororities recruit new members. "And I just love being up here in the mountains — that's really why I transferred here from Georgia State University."

Students can follow Nigel the Nighthawk on Twitter @UNGNighthawk and on Facebook at Nigel the Nighthawk. Nigel will use these social media accounts to announce student involvement opportunities, athletic news and upcoming appearances.

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