A (pleasant) academic interlude.

Paul and I jumped into a family van, complete with family, for a whirlwind overnight round trip (thirteen hours of it in said van). We were the super-proud aunt-and-uncle team at our niece J’s graduation from a large midwestern university (a Big Ten school, whatever that means. Something to do with sports, I think). It was surrounded by vast farmland, the kind of place where the school is much, much larger than the town it’s in.   J received her Bachelor’s degree, was part of the Honors College, and is heading straight to a prestigious PhD program, with funding and job attached.  I’m not going to talk about her or the family here, to guard their privacy, except: did I say we’re proud?

Waiting for it to begin, while the orchestra played. That big while object behind the orchestra is a huge mound of rolled replica diplomas, each about 1″ in diameter.

I can say that I’ve never before been a graduation guest, nor have I been to anything other than arts school versions of the ceremonies; I’ve only either been receiving a degree myself or, much more often, required to be a gowned faculty body* so I found it all interesting. First, we all attended the BioChem Breakfast, which title I (alone) found amusing, and I really liked some of the hallway notices.  The university is so huge that they held back-to-back graduation ceremonies for different areas and degrees for three solid days; we attended the undergrad Natural Sciences segment, which filled a huge indoor sports arena. It was much more formal, straightforward and well-behaved than what I was used to, and everyone knew things like the alma mater songs and fight songs and chants and belted them out in unison.  When they asked the families to stand at the end, the thousand or so students – now alumni – did a ‘wave’. On campus, there were lots of places like research greenhouses I was really curious to see inside but couldn’t, and I was told of lovely botanic gardens, but it was raining off and on. But it was a warm, happy, fun and interesting time, besides the fact that we were so proud (did I mention that?).

*I don’t own my own regalia, and neither do a lot of the faculty in the places I’ve taught, so forms were filled out so that the correct outfits could be rented for the majority of us, and just before the ceremony we were dressed in wrinkled straight-out-of-the-plastic-package gear. Often, my hood-and-gown order went astray, so I was given whatever was left over. I have attended ceremonies impersonating Doctors of  Philosophy, Engineering and Music.  PhD’s have the best hats by far, as well as nice little velvet stripes on their gowns. Apparently, they also tend to skip out on ceremonies. But was I also once a Master of Journalism, which, if you read the blog, you know is truly stretching the truth.

I finished making all the remaining text sheets I needed the night before we left; when I got home, they were dried and shrunken beautifully. Now I am back to a whole lot of studio work and (yes) more admin, and I am down to waiting for just two more e-mails before I can finally publish the upcoming show schedule, hooray!

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3 thoughts on “A (pleasant) academic interlude.

  1. Most universities these days have en masse graduations — the one we are attending on Thursday is grouping Law and Medicine (the graduand is Law, and her father graduated in Medicine from the same school before she was born) — come June, however, they do four days straight, with separate ceremonies in the morning and afternoon.

    The logistics are quite impressive, having gone to mine when I received my Masters….

    Of course, this also means that the school can award multiple honourary degrees and have more than one inspiring speaker: I’m not so sure that is always a good thing. (One of the honourary degrees last year went to an undergrad classmate of mine, who went to Harvard for his MBA and gave our lowly school a lot of money.)

  2. For my own degrees, the institution did the whole thing en masse, in a super-long ceremony, but with great honorary degree speakers (Laurie Anderson, the painter Joan Mitchell, and Vito Aconci, who did his hidden beneath the podium). A place I taught once did separate grad and undergrad ceremonies, and then switched to two ceremonies, morning and afternoon, divided by schools within the institution. But this place was much, much larger than those.

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