Q&A - April 22, 2016

Graduation day is one of my favorite days of the year. I consider myself most fortunate to be at OSUIT where we have three graduations each year. So this means I get to have three favorite days each year.

Three times a year, I get to celebrate with excited students as they revel in the culmination of their hard work and proudly realize their dreams of achieving a college education. Three times a year, I get to witness the tears of joy in the eyes of parents and other family members who have so lovingly supported their graduate throughout their education. Three times a year, I get to experience the contagious enthusiasm of graduates that motivates and rejuvenates those of us who work in education. Graduation day is a special day that rewards everyone in attendance.

If you noticed extra cars in town today, it’s because today is one of those favorite days of mine. One hundred ninety-three (193) students graduate from OSUIT during the Spring Commencement Ceremony today in 29 different programs of study. One hundred fourteen (114) of those graduates earned academic honors by maintaining a “B” or higher grade point average while in college. Today, I congratulate every one of our graduates because they have each made themselves proud on this day.

Q: What is a commencement ceremony?

To commence means “to start” or “to begin” something. So a commencement refers to a fresh start or a new beginning. The term “commencement ceremony” is used synonymously with the term “graduation ceremony” because a graduation does not represent the end of something but rather a beginning of something. When students graduate from college, they are beginning a new phase of their life; they are “commencing” into the real world to make it on their own.

Students go to college to achieve something more than they could achieve on their own and to become something more than they could have become on their own. Students want to be successful in life, and a college education is a good starting point for this to happen.

We forget sometimes that graduation is not an end unto itself, but rather a means to an end. There is no inherent pride or satisfaction in simply receiving a piece of paper as you walk across a stage. The paper represents an accomplishment, but it is not the accomplishment per se. The true satisfaction comes in what a college graduate does with that piece of paper. It comes when that graduate uses that college degree and turns it into a meaningful life or career for himself or herself.

Graduation is not life’s destination, but it is an important step on the journey. It is a time-honored point of entry for many into the rigors and realities of adult life—a “commencement” on to bigger and better things in life. Life does not end with graduation for a college student; life commences, and this is why we celebrate it with a commencement ceremony.

I am indebted to everyone who has supplied me with questions for this column. Please continue to forward them to osuit-president@okstate.edu.