New MTSU students welcome at Aug. 25 Convocation w...

New MTSU students welcome at Aug. 25 Convocation with ‘Just Mercy’ author as guest speaker

Thousands of new MTSU freshmen and transfer students will help usher in the 2018-19 academic year along with their families during University Convocation at 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25, in Murphy Center.

The public is invited.

Attendees will hear from President Sidney A. McPhee, Vice President of Student Affairs Deb Sells and attorney Bryan Stevenson, author of “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption,” who penned the Summer Reading selection.

New MTSU students recite the True Blue Pledge at 2017 Convocation.

New MTSU students recite the True Blue Pledge during the 2017 University Convocation last August in Murphy Center. This year’s Convocation will be held Saturday, Aug. 25. (MTSU file photo by Andy Heidt)

Those who can’t attend University Convocation in person can watch it live on the web. Visit for more details and to enjoy the event’s livestream on Aug. 24.

Convocation is a rite of fall at MTSU. It is designed to welcome new students into the learning community and to immediately engage them in the learning process, said Sells, who is also vice provost for enrollment and academic services.

“Convocation will be our official start to the new school year,” Sells said. “We’ll bring in all of the new freshmen and as many transfer students that want to join us and their family members to kick off the school year the way we do here at MTSU.”

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A MacArthur Fellow and the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, Stevenson is considered one of the country’s most visionary legal thinkers and social justice advocates. He is a founding leader of the movement against mass incarceration in the United States.

Bryan Stevenson, guest speaker, University Convocation 2018, and author of “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption,” the Summer Reading Selection

Bryan Stevenson

Stevenson served on President Barack Obama’s task force on 21st-century policing. His memoir, “Just Mercy,” is the story of a young lawyer fighting on the front line of a country in thrall to extreme punishments and careless justice.

In promoting his book, Stevenson’s publisher, Penguin Random House, called “Just Mercy” “an inspiring story of unbreakable humanity in the most desperate circumstances and a powerful indictment of a broken justice system and the twisted values that allow it to continue.”

“It’s a really interesting take on the justice system here in the South, and I think folks will really enjoy the book,” Sells said. “Bryan will talk about what the book meant to him and why he thinks it is a good read for the students as they are getting ready to engage in this next step in their life.”

Sells said anyone familiar with Stevenson’s name “may be because the firm he’s working with now has been very involved with the museum that recently opened in Montgomery that tells the story of lynching in America.”

Stevenson originated the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery. It features the names of more than 4,000 African-Americans lynched in 12 Southern states from 1877 to 1950.

During Convocation, the Band of Blue will perform and incoming students will recite the True Blue Pledge that outlines the university’s values. Sells will explain academic regalia traditions, and McPhee also will welcome the new freshman class, transfers and accompanying family members.

Following Convocation, the annual President’s Picnic will be held in Floyd Stadium. Stevenson will sign copies of his book starting at 6:30 p.m.

— Randy Weiler (

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, right, chats with guests during the President's Picnic held Saturday, Aug. 26, near Floyd Stadium following Convocation. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, right, chats with guests attending the August 2017 President’s Picnic near Floyd Stadium following University Convocation. This year’s picnic follows the Aug. 25 Convocation in Murphy Center. (MTSU file photo by Andy Heidt)