A Time to Celebrate

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.

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2 thoughts on “A Time to Celebrate

  1. This is a great post, Grant. At King’s we too are in the downhill rush to our Spring Convocation, my favorite event of the year. Doubly so this year as my daughter is graduating.

    This year is going to see what I think is the highest number of participating graduands ever. That is great and feels like some immediate reward for the very hard work of not only my office but from faculty and staff across the institution.

    As always, there are some graduands who tell us that they won’t be participating. This year a few of those told us they would not be there only to return later to tell us that their spouse or children or parents are “making” them go! I think that the students sometimes forget that there really is a community that wants to celebrate their achievement — a community that includes their families, friends, fellow graduands, staff, faculty, senators and governors. Graduation is one of the few times that this community is gathered to visibly (and vocally!) say “Well done!”

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    1. Glenn, we had our highest number of graduands two years ago. This year we’ve dropped from 3 ceremonies back to 2, which makes the day a little more manageable.
      Great story about those grads being “made” to attend! This year we had a guy come into the office a few weeks ago and sheepishly ask if he could still graduate because his grandmother said there was no way her grandson was going to go to school for 4 years and she not get to see him walk across the stage! He’s a big guy, and we all simultaneously had this image of a 5’2″ little general grandmother barking orders at this 6’3″ guy 🙂
      And yes, you’re right – it’s not always about the individual who’s graduating. It’s much greater than that. Thanks for the reminder.
      I hope your graduation goes very well this year. Cheers!

      Like

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