Towards the end of an undergraduate degree things start to fall in place: they did for me anyway. I learned how to study and how to learn, and I even dedicated a reasonable chunk of time to my studies, and loved it so much that I decided to continue my studies and registered for a PhD. My undergraduate graduation was in July 1985. I was an international student from a war torn country and so there was absolutely no way any family member could travel the thousands of miles to attend my graduation. They were too busy avoiding air raids and had become war refugees in their own country. And, if I am honest, I only attended it because my parents were keen for me to do so.
Once I joined academia, I witnessed many graduation ceremonies and have always been curious about local practices at different universities. Earlier last week, I had a meal with a friend from another institution and we were comparing notes on our universities graduation traditions. She told me that their VC’s speech lasts for one hour – can you imagine!! I thought Debra’s speech was one of the best VC speeches I have heard and it was just shy of 10 minutes, which was ideal.
Reflecting on all the graduations I have attended, it was not until my PhD students started to graduate that I realised the significance of this occasion and, by the time my son graduated in 2015, I was a fully-fledged graduation fan.
As you know, last week was our university’s graduation and my first graduation attendance here. I attended all but two of the ceremonies and I felt very proud about how we do our graduations. There is always a good atmosphere at graduations but I felt we had the perfect balance between creating a good celebratory atmosphere and not forgetting that we were there to celebrate the academic achievements of our graduates. A personal favourite of Maya Angelou quotes is: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”, and, last week, our university made all our graduates feel good about themselves, their experience with us and their achievements.
Brighton Centre was an excellent venue and the team worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make it all go smoothly. Over 3500 graduates, ranging in age between 19 and 79 and from 90 countries, became alumni of the University of Brighton. I had the privilege of doing an oration for one of our honorary graduates, Miranda Brawn, and meeting her was a real highlight for me.
My favourite part of the celebrations was meeting the students and their families afterwards. I tried to share some of these moments with others through Twitter and there were times when I felt that perhaps I could have had a career in marketing after all!!
On Friday evening I was tired but joyous. Of course, I will share a few suggestions on how we can improve the ceremonies further but they were all very special.
It was an excellent week and I wish the very best for the Class of 2017. I would like to leave them with this lovely phrase:
“Behind you, all your memories. Before you, all your dreams. Around you, all those who love you. Within you, all you need”.