BELTON — Music blared out from the Frank and Sue Mayborn Campus Center as hundreds of students and teachers sat and watched dozens of flags carried down the center aisle and up into the stands Wednesday.

The presentation of flags was one part of this year’s convocation ceremony for the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. The flags represented the 34 states and 28 countries that students going to UMHB this year come from.

This year’s guest speaker, Jennifer Manning, serves on the university’s board of trustees and is a member of the executive committee of Pattillo, Brown & Hill accounting firm.

Manning told stories about her time at UMHB to the crowd of students and faculty. She gave advice to the students, letting them know that their time in college is the best time to reinvent themselves into who they wish to be without the input of anyone else.

“This is the perfect time in your life to step out of your comfort zone,” Manning said. “This is the time where you have no parents, maybe no relatives, and it is really just about you and what you want to make it. If there is anything you want to do differently, you have the opportunity to do it here.”

With her stories, Manning also tried to let students know that the faculty at the school really does care about them and wants to see them become the best they can be. While she didn’t believe this when she was a student, Manning said since she now is on the school’s board she can really see that it is the truth.

“I hope that, after Welcome Week and the candle lighting and dubbing ceremonies on Sunday, you truly feel initiated into the Crusader family,” UMHB President Randy O’Rear said. “New and experienced Crusaders alike know that the faculty and staff are fully invested in your success and look forward to being a part of your academic journey.”

For some staff members, such as Vice President for Student Life Brandon Skaggs, the event was a perfect opportunity to start the year off in the best way possible.

“(Convocation) is just an opportunity to start the year with faculty, staff and students coming together for worship and with a voice to start the year off right,” Skaggs said. “Having (a good) speaker can help relate to students and their past experience and impassion and embolden students in their own lives and in our university”

While some school events like convocation can be less than popular with students, others, like freshman sports management student Quinn Maloney, said that it was a perfect opportunity to learn more about the school and what he could expect moving forward in his college career.

“I like to hear what other people think of the school,” Maloney said. “It helps me when I hear alumni talking about how great the school is, because it helps me become more excited to go here.”