Here at TWU, we’re just wrapping up the last few exam days and then we have the graduation ceremony for the undergraduate class of 2011, on Saturday. We’ve already started handing out tickets, gowns, hoods and caps to the grads. In the gown distribution room, you can feel the excitement. Students who’ve never met before suddenly have something in common. Friends are coming with grads to help them carry their stuff (hey, a coat hanger with a grad gown, cap and hood on it needs at least 3 friends to carry). And when I ask the friends, they often say, “I’m graduating next year” and I see the anticipation in their eyes.
Yes, it’s a wonderful time of year where students, staff and faculty join together to celebrate the conclusion of undergraduate studies and the commencement of a new chapter of life. For some, it’s stressful: “Am I really going to graduate? What if I don’t pass that last exam?” For others, it’s worrisome: “Now I have to actually get a job and a career – but what? Gulp!”
For these students, I think it’s important to remind them that celebrating the past, even the very recent past, is important. They’ve worked hard and paid a lot of money to get to this point. Milestones are important markers in life, even if the future is uncertain. Perhaps they are more important when the future is uncertain.
How will you celebrate with your grads? Here at TWU, most departments (or faculties, or schools) have their own specific grad parties, but the Registrar’s Office gets into it starting on Thursday with a grad rehearsal (here’s how to walk across the stage and look good doing so), and we try to make it fun. Then we have a Baccalaureate service on Friday evening with everyone – it’s a huge celebration with music, presentations, and commissions – and finally a couple of ceremonies on Saturday where we hand out diploma folders, hear speeches, and move tassles from one side of the cap to the other. Then we eat and drink together and give hugs and handshakes, words of encouragement and promises to keep in touch through the Alumni Association. This is where we often meet parents, grandparents, spouses, and other significant people in the lives of our students. The joy flows freely and it’s one of my favourite times of the year.
Yes, it’s a lot of work – for our office and for students – but that’s the whole point of celebration. Without the outlaying of hard work, time and money, and without the risk of failure, what’s the point of celebrating? But for the ones who overcome these challenges, the opportunity to put on a black robe, colourful hood, and mortarboard, is worth cheering about. It’s when our students get to see just how much we care about them.
How do you celebrate with your students? Please share by posting a comment.