Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What Really Happens on the Stage at Graduation

One of the most rewarding things about being a Trustee at Clarkson University is the opportunity to participate in Commencement. Although I dread sticking pins into my head so my cap won't fall off during the procession, I love seeing all the proud, smiling faces from the stage.
Do you remember the feeling you had walking into the ceremony through lines of faculty and staff all clapping for you? Excited, eager, proud. You probably couldn't help but smile, even if you bashfully looked away and avoided eye contact with all the supporters beaming with pride for you. The past few years I've gotten to relive that feeling, although now from the other point of view. Now I'm the one beaming with pride for the graduates, trying to catch the attention of the bashful, and really taking the moment in. 
Oh yeah, and the perk of celebrating
with family members as they cross the stage

The other highlight of Commencement is the Senior Class President address. This year Kristin Lear, reflected on her class' accomplishments and memories; some that are timeless, such as the 
jitters they faced on move-in day, and others that were most certainly a sign of the times, such as all the memories built in the Student Center.

At that moment, I couldn't help but reflect on all the changes since I graduated in 2004...

  • Clarkson now has the 2nd largest concentration of ROTC cadets in the nation.
  • The downtown campus has been revived and includes:
    • Offices for 15 start-up companies, 8 of which are directly related to Clarkson efforts.
    • A telecommuting center for the spouses of Clarkson employees
    • Soon-to-be home of the North Country's first green data center and a research facility for Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries
  • The Business School now requires an international experience and many students are travelling abroad during the summer.
  • And just that day, we voted and approved the addition of a Masters of Science in Engineering Management. This will be a part-time interdisciplinary M.S. degree for working professionals that can be obtained through a combination of year-round online courses and summer sessions on campus

There are many more, and as I was actually shocked at how many I have still been a part of as a graduate - recommending Clarkson University to high school students interested in ROTC, offering my business' services to assist one of Clarkson's start-up companies. 
Just last month I contacting business colleagues in Australia to help Professor Ormsbee schedule business tours while escorting a group of 17 undergraduates to expose them to HR practices, the Australian labor market, and cultural issues in business in Australia.

I will admit, after observing all the excited graduates, listening to the class President's speech, and reflecting on the increasing value of the Clarkson education, the energy on the stage becomes much like the energy in the seats. We get comfortable, study the colors of the doctoral regalia, and occassionally take out the iPhone or Blackberry or try to spot Senator Chuck Schumer who undoubtedly crashes the event. However, most of our time is spent studying the script, calculating the number of graduates and pace of each reader so we can make an educated guess on the duration of Commencement. That's right, we have a pool and all place bets.