o, not mine – that’s a couple of years off yet. But I did take part in the ceremony today. There’s a tradition that the general staff (i.e. non-academics) can volunteer to help out at graduation doing things like ushering parents to their seats, or helping the marshalls organise the students. Or, as I was doing today, carrying one of the banners that lead in the academic procession.
I love taking part in graduation anyway (it’s a great way to reconnect with what the university is ultimately all about), but banner bearing is my favourite role, mainly because it means I get to wear academic regalia. I’m very proud of having the right to wear that silly hat and pink hood (I really should have done Engineering, not Arts – Canterbury’s BA colour is a particularly insipid washed-out pink. The engineers get a much nicer bright purple hood to wear. Of course, I could choose to wear the dark blue Science hood, seeing as I also have a BSc, but seeing as I work for the College of Arts, it seems a bit disloyal not to opt for their colours.) – it took me a lot of work and many many years to earn that degree! And plus, dress-ups is always fun 😉
As with anything to do with graduation, the job involves a lot of waiting around for a very brief appearance on stage. First (after a quick rehearsal to make sure we remember from last year what we’re supposed to do) we line up at the back of the carpark with all the students (glamorous, I know – unfortunately since the Town Hall was damaged in the earthquakes, graduations have been held in an indoor sports arena), and get our photos taken many many times by parents who actually just want a photo of the banner for their child’s degree, and we just happen to be carrying it (I was carrying Antarctic Studies this year, which is a postgrad only degree, so only ever has a handful of graduands, so I was spared too many photos for a change). Then once all the students are arranged into the correct order, and the academics are arranged into any sort of order at all (which seems to take longer than the students…), a piper leads off the procession across the carpark to the arena, followed by the banner bearers, then the students, then the academics. When we reach the arena, we wait in the foyer while the students file in and take their seats (hopefully still in the same order they were put in, otherwise they get given the wrong degree…), then once they’re all settled and the excited parents have stopped leaping up to take photos, they play the impressive organ music and we lead the procession of academics in (cue lots more photos from the parents…) and up onto the stage. The academics take their seats on the stage, but we just deposit our banners into stands at the back of the stage and then walk back out again, our job complete.
So yeah, all that dressing up and rehearsing for about 2 minutes walking down the aisle and across the stage 🙂 It’s fun though, and we get to sneak back in the back door and watch the rest of the ceremony if we want – I didn’t bother this year though, because I only knew a couple of the students graduating (compared to when I was actually working in an academic department, when I’d recognise so many names and faces!). And best of all, tradition is that if you help out at graduation, you get to take the rest of the afternoon off 🙂