June 6, 2003

Graduation will continue traditions, old and new

All college students dream about the moment when they will amble down a long aisle and get handed a piece of paper proving their academic worth. Chicago's College graduation is much more than a simple walk, however, as the University has planned several special events to make the experience more memorable for students and their families.

On Friday evening, hundreds of students and guests are invited to the Museum of Science and Industry for a reception to celebrate the accomplishments of the graduating class. A champagne toast honoring the current class will be made at 8:15 p.m., after which the senior class gift will be presented to President Randel and Dean Boyer. All are then welcome to enjoy the many attractions of the museum, which the University has reserved for the entire evening.

But fourth-years cannot stay out too late, because Convocation begins promptly at 10 a.m. the following morning. On Saturday, starting at Henry Crown, students will process behind a bagpiper and their class banner to Harper quadrangle, where a host of supportive well-wishers sit in waiting.

The graduation ceremony is roughly two hours in length and, unlike many other colleges that acquire a famous personality to deliver a charge to the graduates, features a faculty speaker who addresses the audience about a relevant academic topic.

Students are given six tickets to Convocation, and are allowed to enter a lottery to win up to two additional tickets. After receiving their official tickets, many fourth-years trade or give away extra tickets to friends who may need them, officials said.

"I entered the lottery for a friend who has a big family," said Eric Fish, a fourth-year in the college.  "That way, he wouldn't have to play favorites."

Both the museum reception and the student procession are meant to provide a sense of closure that links a student's experience back to Orientation Week, according to University officials, when anxious first-years are led to the field house lawn for their class picture and presentation of their class banner.

"We want to harp on the traditional experience that last throughout the four years," said Bill Michel, assistant dean of the College and Convocation committee member. "For example, bagpipes led students to their class photo, and now they will lead them to their Convocation."

This class will be the first to have these symbolic bookends to their academic careers, though the University plans to make it a permanent fixture of the graduation ceremony, Michel said.

Immediately following the graduation ceremony, a reception will be held on the main quadrangles featuring large colored tents and banners meant to encourage students and faculty to mingle. The class banner will be erected in the middle of the event for students to take pictures with their family, friends, and faculty, a practice that has become a somewhat informal tradition.

University officials have noticed other quasi-traditions that have developed over the years.

"I don't know how official it is, but one thing I have enjoyed watching is that many students every year go to the Reynolds Club after graduation and jump up and down on the University seal," Michel said.

No official events have been planned for Saturday evening, when graduating seniors and their families are left to celebrate on their own terms. "I'm sure students and their families will enjoy Saturday night on their own," Michel said.

While some seniors are getting ready to party the night away, many believed that it is important to use the time as a bonding moment among family members.

"I'm mostly likely going to dinner with my parents and grandparents somewhere downtown," Fish said.

The undergraduate graduation is actually the third session of four separate Convocation ceremonies. On Friday, June 13th, the Law School, the school of public policy, and the School of Social Service Administration will have graduation at 10 a.m. Later in the day, students from the medical school and graduate students in the humanities and social sciences will be handed their diplomas. Students of the Graduate School of Business will have their final Convocation ceremony on Sunday, June 15th, followed by a reception on the Midway in front of Ida Noyes.

All ceremonies will be held rain or shine.