MURFREESBORO — Author R. Dwayne Betts, whose one “moment of insanity” ultimately changed his life for the good, will help welcome MTSU’s newest scholars at the annual University Convocation inside Murphy Center on Sunday, Aug. 25.
The public is welcome to the free 2 p.m. event in Hale Arena, which helps mark the beginning of the 2013-14 academic year at MTSU, the university’s 103rd year of educating Tennessee’s best.
University Convocation formally welcomes new freshmen into the MTSU learning community. Faculty members march in their regalia as the MTSU Band of Blue performs, and the traditions and rituals of the university are explained to the newest members of the MTSU family.
Betts’ memoir, “A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison,” is MTSU’s 2013 Summer Reading Selection.
In it, Betts, a poet, essayist and national spokesman for the Campaign for Youth Justice, chronicles his experience after picking up a pistol for the first time as a 16-year-old honors student and carjacking and robbing a stranger. He spent nine years in prison and emerged to become a bookstore manager, establish book clubs for African-American boys and earn a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland.
"I taught myself how to frame the world in a way in which I could be more than what I was during the 30 minutes I committed the crime," Betts told CNN in a 2009 interview.
"There is no end to the ingenuity of a man's mind that won't be denied. You can teach yourself anything you want. … You can be more than any one mistake you make.”
Betts now writes and lectures about the impact of mass incarceration on American society. In April 2012, President Obama appointed him to the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and in 2011, Betts was awarded a Radcliffe Fellowship to Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Studies.
MTSU’s Summer Reading Program, created in 2002, aims to provide a unifying experience for entering freshmen. The students are expected to read the book before classes start Aug. 24, and all University 1010 classes will discuss it this fall. Faculty also are incorporating the book into their fall lesson plans.
First-year students are expected to attend Convocation; their families and members of the MTSU and surrounding communities are welcome, too.
Immediately after Convocation, the public also is invited to the annual President’s Picnic in Walnut Grove, located in the center of campus between the Cope Administration Building and Peck Hall, to celebrate the new academic year.
Both events are part of MTSU’s annual “Week of Welcome” celebration. For a complete “Week of Welcome” schedule, visit http://www.mtsu.edu/nsfp/welcome_nsfp.php or call 615-898-2454 for more information.