Friday, July 2, 2010

You'd need weapons for that!

The huge state university at which I work as a graduate academic advisor holds commencement ceremonies three times per year. For the past two or three years, several of my colleagues and I have served as graduation marshals for the College of Engineering.

Years ago, before I became an academic advisor, my neighbor, a buff black man with shaved head and huge biceps [read: intimidating] told me he was going to be a graduation marshall. In my then-ignorance I asked, "Do you help the parents find their seats?"

He: "No! You'd need weapons for that! I help the graduates line up."

Oh! Hah!

Marshals line up graduates in alphabetical order. And properly drape them in their MS hoods, find safety pins for tassels, wish them luck.

In the staging area, a basketball practice gym, marshals have only 45 minutes to get this unruly mass of more than 400 robed graduates in alphabetical order by academic degree (and, for undergraduates, major) and push them out the door. It seems as if the signs behind which they stand are randomly placed, but the head of one line follows seamlessly the tail of the next, at the direction of the hard-working people from Office of the Registrar.

The advisor from Department of Aerospace Engineering high-fives every aero undergraduate as they file onto the area floor. Ah, sweet youth!

One moment the noisy room filled with black regalia and laughing, joking, talking, hugging soon-to-be graduates. Within moments, the room is empty, leaving a vacuum and a surreal quiet. Some of the Ph.D. graduates are students I have known and advised for as long a five years. Although I'm thrilled they are about to embark on the next phase of their lives, it is bittersweet for me to see them go.

Good luck all. Vaya con Dios.


Anonymous said...

"You'd need weapons for that?" LOL!! Except -- that's crazy! College graduation can be that unruly!? Wow! (I only went to my undergrad graduation from a very small college, so what would I know?) Oh, well. Good luck to all the graduates anyway! :)

Waitress from Mensa said...

The parents can be unruly. I quoted this conversation to my fellow marshals after the student's procession to the floor. Instead of being amused, then nodded gravely in assent.