UD's twilight ceremony lit up the heart of Newark Monday night.

UD’s 4,000 freshmen light up night with twilight tradition 

Jarek RutzEducation, Headlines

UD's twilight ceremony lit up the heart of Newark Monday night.

UD’s twilight ceremony lit up the heart of Newark Monday night.

The central green of the University of Delaware looked like a field of fireflies Monday night as the incoming class joined the Blue Hen flock during the annual Twilight Induction Ceremony.

“This is officially our new beginning,” said Jacob Hudson, who’s pursuing a degree in computer science. “The past few days have all been about meeting people and becoming familiar with the campus, and this really makes it feel like my new home.”

Just months ago, Hudson had his Garnet Valley High School graduation on UD’s campus.

“It’s kind of full-circle and interesting how the last day of high school is also in the same place as the first day of my new journey in college,” he said. 

It took about an hour just for new UD students to fill the open courtyard. 

The inaugural twilight induction ceremony was in fall 2012, with the goal of making the newest  generation of incoming students feel settled and a part of their new environment.

After some encouraging words from President Dennis Assanis, Provost Laura Carlson, Student Government President Julia Hatoum and Vice President of Student Life José Riera, the more than 4,000 freshmen lit their candles and waved them in the air, like a 1960s music festival. 

“This night creates unity, especially being here with my floor and getting to know those people a lot more,” said Naomi Metcalf, who is majoring in psychology. “Also it helps us feel connected to the grade as a whole, and really makes us feel like we’re part of the class of 2027.”

It was the perfect end to the university’s freshman welcome days, she said, and a meaningful and special moment that she’ll look back on when she crosses the graduation stage in four years.

Assanis heard cheers when he announced this class had the highest test score and grade point average out of any in the last five years, and one of the highest averages in the history of the school, which dates back to 1743. 

When he asked the crowd to raise their lit candles, it felt like the same kind of “we are on a new journey” moment that graduates experience when they move their mortar board tassel from the right side of their cap to the left.

“This moment officially makes you all the newest class of Blue Hens,” Assanis said, to a thunderous applause.

History of Twilight

Before the twilight tradition, UD’s “induction” of new students happened through convocation, where the most recent graduating class would welcome incoming freshmen.

“Convocation was a much more formal event,” Riera said. “Academic regalia was worn, and, in order to fit the whole class, we had to bus students to the Bob Carpenter Center on South Campus.”

The students who arrived first at the center would sometimes have to wait upwards of an hour before the final group of first-year students made it to the building and the ceremony could begin, he said. 

Fall 2011 had been a mess as Hurricane Irene tore through Delaware, forcing UD to postpone the start of classes.

“The few students that had moved in early were sent home,” Riera said. “In order to stay on track with our academic schedule, we canceled much of our orientation activities that traditionally occur before the first day of classes.”

That included the opening convocation. 

A group of faculty and administration at UD then assembled to rethink and contemporize the experience.  

“We sought to create something that was more accessible, put school spirit at the center, and was a moment that all first year students would look forward to participating in,” Riera said. “Something that had the gravitas of academic tradition mixed with the youthful energy of today’s traditionally aged college-going generation.”

He half-joked that another way to think about it is they wanted to create a moment worthy of a deeply meaningful Instagram story.  

“Twilight” was born.  

After the inaugural ceremony in fall 2012, Riera said the eventg took off, becoming a meaningful event looked forward to by students, staff, faculty and the entire UD community.

The ceremony takes place the night before the first day of fall classes.

Riera said the university hopes that when students later reflect on that moment, they’re able to see how their college experience helped them grow into successful and healthy contributors of the UD community and greater society.

“It’s a moment to share with your peers,” Riera said, “and it’s meant to allow new students to take a mental picture that we hope they will remember for years to come and look back fondly on their beginnings as Blue Hens.”

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