From June 11-15, a record number of eligible University of Calgary graduands attended their convocation ceremonies to receive recognition for four--sometimes more--years of sleepless nights, caffeine catatonia and full-contact academia. Nearly 70 per cent of the 3,493 students graduating from 11 faculties were present to walk across the stage and receive their diplomas.
"Convocation is what we describe as a rite of passage," said Brenda Tweedie, U of C Ceremonies Officer. "It's a formal acknowledgement that a change has happened, that students have made the move from being graduands to being graduates or alumni. It's a pretty significant time for people who have made a major commitment to taking some kind of post-secondary education."
Reaction from 2001 graduates on the formal ritual which marked the end of a remarkable era was varied. Some offered reasons for their attendance or absence at the ceremony.
"I am going to convocation," said bachelor of kinesiology graduate Craig Jones. "I didn't spend the last four years of my life for nothing. After all the time, stress, money and hours upon hours of boring lectures, I think that at the very least, I deserve to walk across the stage. It's my 10 seconds of fame."
Bachelor of science recipient Kerim Genc provided another perspective on the event.
"I want to add closure to the four years that I worked so hard for," he said. "I know a lot of people complain that it's too long to sit around, but when I ask any of my friends, in retrospect, whether it really was a waste of time, they all say no."
Tweedie also pointed out the significance of the convocation ceremony to parents and other supporters of each student.
"It's sometimes more important for the family and friends," she said. "It's an amazing time for them to see somebody in a different light and to help them celebrate their accomplishment."
"Students sometimes tell us they're attending for their parents, and if their parents can't attend, they don't feel they should come," added U of C Convocation Officer Dorothy Robertson.
Bachelor of fine arts graduate Jessie Johnsen agreed.
"I am the first person in my extended family to have ever gone to university and completed a degree," she said. "This includes my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and even cousins. My parents wouldn't stand for me not attending."
"Parents are so proud," said Robertson. "We'll even have parents call to tell us their son or daughter doesn't want to come, but they'll ask if they can still attend. They just want to see the ceremony."
In spite of parental protests, some students cannot attend due to time constraints or simple logistical difficulties.
"I'm living in the Yukon for the summer so [attending convocation] would be a pricey endeavour," explained bachelor of science graduate Colleen Haney. "I'm sorry that I won't be at convocation but life moves on. People spread out so quickly and while the symbolism of convocation is important I just don't think it's enough to keep people around for two months."
Johnsen explained her reluctance to attend as well.
"University was a very personal experience for me," she said. "All my invaluable learning experiences were unique to me, and not all of them came from typical university classroom settings. The convocation ceremony is neither individual or personal. I do not value sitting in an auditorium surrounded by people that I possibly did not share classes or even programs with for three hours. This does not represent what my four years meant to me."
Genc pointed out that some graduands do not attend for quasi-political reasons.
"I know a lot of people who won't be going to convocation because they feel they're sending a message to the [university] administration that they aren't happy about being 'screwed around,'" he said. "In reality, they're being a bunch of petty babies."
In the end, the general consensus was that convocation was well worth the time.
"If you assess that you've spent several years attaining a university degree, to take an afternoon to celebrate that is really not a major commitment," said Tweedie. "Most people that attend their convocation are in retrospect really glad that they did and people that don't really wish that they had."
"I've been attending convocation ceremonies for 23 years and I don't find it boring," stated Robertson. "Students don't realize what's involved, but when they get there, they're really overwhelmed. A lot of students tell us how glad they were they attended."
Bachelor of science recipient Antra Rozitis expressed a similar sentiment.
"At first, I didn't think I wanted to attend," she said. "It didn't seem worth wasting an afternoon for, sitting in the Simpson gym. But I think that if I don't walk across the stage and do the whole cap and gown thing, in 20 years time, I'll regret it."