Academic Convocation speakers give students inspiration through stories of trial and error

Shockers walk in to Wilner Auditorium during the Academic Convocation on Sept. 8. Academic Convocation is the official academic welcome for all first-year students.

Kwame Onwuachi, author of `Notes from a Young Black Chef,’ discussed his history with fear and failure to students as they embark on their college journey at the Academic Convocation. The event was meant to welcome first-year students to WSU.

Onwuachi didn’t let fear and failure keep him from his dreams. At age five, he was helping his mom cook for her catering business and that chore turned into a passion for him. 

After many different paths in his life that led him away from cooking, he found his way back, eventually becoming an executive chef for a boat that sat in the Gulf of Mexico, during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“I was cooking things that really resonated with me, and you know when you put love into something, people can really feel that — It doesn’t matter what craft you’re in. This book (Notes from a Young Black Chef) if you replace the word chef with any other profession, the narrative remains true,” Onwuachi said. “You have to be very, very passionate about what you do.”

Onwuachi eventually opened his own catering business. After opening, he said yes to cater to two thousand people in three days despite having never catered to an event that big. 

“Continuing to look fear in the face is what life is about,” Onwuachi said. “Bravery doesn’t mean you’re not great at anything. Bravery just means you push through.” 

Rodney Miller, Dean of Fine Arts, honored the 2022 Faculty Award winners from last spring. 

Speaker Pro-Tempore of the student Senate Gregory VanDyke Jr. told the room his recipe for success.

“One-fourth cup of faith, one-fourth cup of perseverance, one-fourth cup of humility, one-fourth cup of passion, a dash of joy,” VanDyke said. “The secret ingredient is four cups of whatever makes you, you.”

Naquela Pack, Director of Engagement at Wichita State, said she felt she had come full circle standing in the auditorium after being a student at WSU.

“Health and wellness, education, prosperity, and culture are my guiding stars and the four pillars of engagement that I work with … I encourage you to locate your guiding star and then stay within that mindset,” Pack said. “Don’t focus on fear. Focus on faith.”

Onwuachi left the room with a few last words before the convocation’s close. 

“Always look fear in the face, if you are afraid of something, push through because you never know what’s on the other side.”