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Thursday, Aug. 29, 9:30 am

Thursday August 29 is not the first day of the Fall 2002 semester at Baruch. But its the first day on which the Colleges entering freshmen will glimpse the challenges and joys of academic life.

Continuing a tradition now in its third year, Baruch College freshmen will begin their academic career with a shared experience, a book assigned to each new studentand some words from the author. This year, Colson Whitehead, author of John Henry Days, the assigned text, will be the Convocation Speaker. Hell address the freshmen at 9:30 am in Mason Hall, on the first floor of 17 Lexington Ave., as part of "Baruch Beginnings," a day of initiation and orientation. Whiteheads well-receivedbook contrasts the legend of John Henry, the steel driver, and Americas heroic age of industrialism with the somewhat shallow and jaundiced life of the contemporary hack journalist who is his prototype of success and struggle in U.S. society today.

Baruch College President Ned Regan and Provost David Dannenbring will welcome students to the college in a ceremony in which senior college officials participate in full academic regalia. During the day, in addition to meeting their fellow students and exploring the l7-story Newman Vertical Campus that will be the hub of their lives for the next FEW years, the students will be offered guided tours of Baruchs spectacular Athletics and Recreation Complex (The ARC), open for the first time this semester. But the centerpiece of the day will be Mr. Whiteheads talk and the seminars that will immediately follow the Convocation.

Asked about the relevance of John Henry Days for todays students, Mr. Whitehead said he hoped the book might help them to think about "the heroics of daily life. Each generation has its own set of challenges," he noted. "Even though contests such as John Henrys battle with the machine dont take place today, we each have our own contest, our own machine that were fighting."

Whitehead, who grew up in New York City, noted that convocations and inspirational speakers notwithstanding, "there is no way to really be prepared for college. Whatever you expect to happen, wont. You can have all the pens and notebooks ready, but some of the most important aspects of college you cant study. Your ideas of what its all about change rapidly within the first month."

A preliminary scan of the demographics of the freshman class reveals a greater-than-average number of students from Long Island andfor the first time in 20 yearsa 50/50 ratio between the sexes. James Murphy, Assistant Vice President for Enrollment, said he couldnt account for the turnaround. "For the past two decades at Baruch, women have consistently outnumbered men by about 60/40," he said. "This year, the men have caught up."

PHOTO OP.Coverage Invited.

Zane Berzins
Vince Passaro (212 802-2916)


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