More than a ceremony: Graduation honors academic achievements and new possibilities
When you consider the tradition in its purest form, graduation commemorates accomplishments, acknowledges completion and represents a transition to the next phase of life. This is true whether it’s a graduation from elementary school, junior high, high school or a university. But, it truly is so much more.
Graduation at University of Phoenix offers on-campus and online students the opportunity to connect with other students and faculty, and to celebrate with family and friends whether they’re at the graduation or not.
As a University of Phoenix faculty member since 1999, I’ve attended many of our graduation ceremonies and the experience is always rich and meaningful. I’ve attended as a student and a faculty member. Because I’ve gained meaning from graduation ceremonies as a student and instructor, I believe we have a responsibility to encourage our students and our peers to attend.
Recognition is important
Graduation is usually thought of as the commencement ceremony. This ceremony usually features guest speakers—the dean or other education luminaries. Then the main event features students walking across a stage to be handed their diploma. That’s it … then the students go out to dinner with family and friends, faculty members go home and everyone goes on with the rest of their lives.
At University of Phoenix, it’s a completely different experience. Walking across the stage to receive a diploma is a momentous occasion. I’ve had the privilege of seeing the behind-the-scenes activity at graduation and our graduation ceremonies are thoughtfully put together with our students in mind.
Opportunities to connect
Students who attend the graduation located in Phoenix are invited to a reception the night before. Because many of our students attend online, they may have completed their entire degree programs with students and faculty who they’ve never met face to face. The reception is an opportunity for students to connect with fellow students and faculty who were a key part of their educational experience.
The reception event planners post messageboards so guests can leave messages to find others. It’s a simple, effective way to put people in touch with each other. It’s clear that the University is thinking about what might be important to our students during graduation weekend.
Preserve triumphant moments
When I talk with my students about why it’s important to go to graduation, I tell them my story. I graduated from the University of Connecticut with my doctorate. I was living in Texas at the time with my young family.
The cost of going back to Connecticut to attend my graduation was just too much. So, I skipped it—and I regret it to this day.
I missed the opportunity for being recognized for the huge achievement of earning my doctorate. I missed hearing the dean of my college congratulate me and call me “Dr. Rouse” for the first time. I missed sharing this special moment with my family, friends and peers. That’s why I encourage my students to attend graduation.
Create lasting connections
Online undergraduate and graduate students can go through their program without meeting a single faculty member or peer. I call it the blindfold effect. Because we can’t tell the age, the ethnicity and sometimes even the gender of the person who we are interacting with, we are in the unique position of falling in love with a person’s words before we know anything else about them.
Online students have the opportunity to care about another student from the inside first; the external isn’t even considered. Because of that, we can’t allow opinions to form about another person before we know them on the inside. And, when they meet for the first time, they have the opportunity to cement and solidify what may have been the strongest bonds of their lives.
University of Phoenix graduation is more than placing a period at the end of one life event, and capitalizing the start of the next. It’s a remarkable experience that encapsulates the entire educational experience thus far. It offers students the opportunity to create stronger bonds with their peers and faculty, and may lead them to decide that they want to continue their higher education journey.
This article originally appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, UOPX Campus Viewpoints section. To review our current faculty articles, visit:https://chronicle.com/campusViewpoint/University-of-Phoenix/29/.