Three new Brenau students sign the Honor Code at fall convocation. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Professor Jessi Shrout tells her Brenau story at annual fall convocation

Aug 29, 2019
Kathryne Davis
Professor Jessi Shrout speaks during the annual fall convocation.
Professor Jessi Shrout speaks during the annual fall convocation. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Instead of trying to give an inspirational speech to faculty, staff and students at the Fall Formal Convocation on Thursday, Aug. 29, Jessi Shrout decided to tell her Brenau story.

“I’ve watched videos on Youtube, read endless quotes and I’ve talked to quite a few inspirational people,” Shrout said. “In the end, I decided that I don’t know how to be inspirational. I don’t know the secret thing to say that will have a lasting impact. But I do know Brenau.”

Shrout is an assistant professor of biology and the 2019 recipient of the Ann Austin Johnston Outstanding Faculty Award. She graduated from The Women’s College in 2004 and is currently working toward a Doctorate of Education in leadership in higher education in Brenau’s program.

As a 5-year-old, she visited Brenau for the first time to see the Gainesville Ballet Company perform The Nutcracker. During her college search, Shrout realized Brenau was the perfect fit.

“Brenau allowed me to combine my love of dance and science,” Shrout said. “At many other universities and colleges, that’s not a typical combination. But at Brenau, you can combine your passions, even if they seem dramatically different. Even if you know exactly what you want to do in life, use your time at Brenau to explore your other interests.”

Shrout also suggested new students find mentors to encourage and help them through the tough times at school.

“There are people on this campus, at this university, who will not allow you to fail,” she said. “They will support you when you need support and they will call you out when you need to be called out. My final challenge for you today is to find these people. They are here and they want to help you.”

President Anne Skleder, Cierra Franklin and Professor Jessi Shrout stand together on stage during fall convocation.
President Anne Skleder, Cierra Franklin and Professor Jessi Shrout stand together on stage during fall convocation. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Student Government Association President and mass communication major Cierra Franklin gave her fellow students a message on becoming. Some of her tips to becoming better included staying focused, telling their story and finding supportive friends. Franklin’s speech was inspired by former First Lady Michelle Obama.

Franklin quoted Obama, saying, “It’s not about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. Instead, it is a forward motion or means of evolving. A way to reach toward a better self.”

Every Fall Formal Convocation, to show their commitment to Brenau, new students individually sign the Honor Code, which asks students to “strive to create a spirit of honesty and honor.”

Debra Dobkins, dean of The Women’s College, spoke about the upcoming school year and the new GOLD program. This year is the start of the G year, which stands for gender awareness. The theme is “celebrating sisterhood and empowering women to take on the world.”

“It seems especially fitting that the GOLD program begins at the same time as our new president,” Dobkins said.

President Anne Skleder, who started July 1, also participated in her first fall convocation along with the freshmen and transfer students.

Skleder said that some of her most meaningful and fun moments have been with students.

“Students are the reason Brenau exists,” she said. “Since this is my first Brenau fall convocation and the opening of my first traditional semester, it will always hold a very special place in my heart.”