By Dr. Julie Henderson
Commencement is often a bittersweet time for faculty members. It’s a joy to see students complete their four-year (or more) journey and begin the next phase of their lives, but also sad to see people leave who have been a part of our daily lives.
I love commencement, I love the tradition and pomp and circumstance of it all. Everything at commencement represents something. Why do faculty and students wear gowns? Because education is one of the three pillars of any civilization, and gowns are only worn by representatives of these institutions (the other two being the courts and the church). The colors on the hoods represent the wearer’s university of graduation and field of study. Doctoral gowns include fur or velvet. Students wear honor cords to indicate their special effort and achievement in academics or leadership, etc.
Students who do not attend their own commencement often think it will be boring (it’s not), it will be too long (always runs about two hours), and is too early after a night of celebration (can’t do anything about that). But I encourage all current students to plan on it.
The thing is, it is not just the student walking across the stage. Every student has had help. That’s especially true on this campus where many are first-generation college graduates, as I was. Someone along the way – a favorite aunt, a big brother, a parent, a friend – encouraged that student to enroll. When the student walks across that stage to receive the diploma and shake the chancellor’s hand, all those people are walking alongside.