Last week I attended the University of Calgary convocation–the graduation ceremony–for the Faculty of Science.* I didn’t used to. When I was first hired at Calgary, and for many years after, I didn’t attend convocation. I didn’t see any point in going to a boring two hour ceremony, the bulk of which would consist of watching students I didn’t know walk across the stage. I also thought I was too busy.
I was wrong on all counts.
I only realized I was wrong a few years ago, when a colleague told me that she always attends convocation. Because there’s no prouder feeling you can have as a professor than seeing students–especially, but not exclusively, the ones you taught–receive the degrees they worked so hard to earn. And because it really means a lot to the students to be able to shake hands with the professors they know as they finish crossing the stage. She was right.**
A graduation ceremony also reminds (and reinforces) to everyone in attendance how valued and valuable the college or university is as an institution. That’s a really enjoyable–and important–thing to remember. It’s pretty easy to forget that as you go about the day to day business of being a prof.
Plus, convocation is not even boring, honestly. The bit where the students walk the stage as their names are called is basically people watching for the audience. I find it relaxing. And it helps that Calgary does it right and encourages audience members to cheer as students walk the stage, rather than making everyone sit in somber silence.
So now I always attend convocation, and if you’re a prof I encourage you to do so too.*** I acknowledge that there are other, private ways for you to mark the graduation of the students whom you know. But they aren’t mutually exclusive with attending convocation. And it’s understandable if you feel as I once did–that it would be boring and you’re too busy. But if you feel as I once did, then I think you’re the sort of person who would benefit most from attending. You need a reminder of how awesome it is to be part of an institution that’s bigger than any one person and makes the world a better place. Attend your institution’s convocation; you won’t regret it. 🙂
*Calgary is a big university, we subdivide the graduating students into several convocation ceremonies.
**Also, this generation of students grew up on Harry Potter, so they all love academic robes. Their graduation ceremony is the closest they’ll ever get to being in Hogwarts. 🙂
*** “Encourage” is a key word here. I’m not slamming any prof who doesn’t attend convocation. This post is meant as encouragement of the sort my colleague once gave me, not as criticism. Nobody should use this post as an excuse to go onto social media and rip anybody. (And I assume and hope nobody would, but just in case…)