Graduation - a reminder

 Last week, I travelled to Galway to meet our students graduating from the Masters in Software Engineering and Database Technologies - part of the IT Online program.  I've done this most years since I graduated from the same program in 2006.  It is a lovely occasion: finally meeting the people we have worked with online throughout the two year stretch; looking into their eyes and seeing their pride; feeling their elation at the end of a long, hard road.  We also feel the glow of their supportive family and friends who helped them to get across the line.

There are two ceremonies: first there is a big ceremony involving a couple of hundred students across other faculties, and then a much smaller ceremony with our Regis University colleagues.  Both are a joy.  Many students travel long distances to be there - we have had students come from Australia, the USA and Germany, down the years. Sometimes, those travelling far arrive alone - without family or friends to share the moment.  


This year on the short walk between the two ceremonies, one of those students suddenly pulled up short.  He looked at another man who just happened to be standing along our path.  For an instant they just stared at each other - as if not really believing their eyes.  Then the whooping and shouting started!  Then there was hugging and loud backslapping reverberated around the sedate NUI Galway Quadrangle.  Then they stopped.  Then they started all over again.  It was an unreserved and wholehearted display of pure delight!  Those of us lucky to witness it just stood and stared and laughed and smiled.  This student, who travelled alone from Germany for his special day, had coincidentally bumped into his childhood friend.  It was a moment.


This photo is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license


It struck me that many of the students who make it to graduation day probably feel like this.  But the formal pomp of academic ceremony means they can't really whoop and shout and celebrate like footballers.  We were privileged last week to see that absolute, unconfined joy and it reminded us how important this journey is to students; how important these days of celebration are; how important the support we provide them is; the space we make for them to grow academically and within themselves, and how valuable the connections we make with them are.  In the weekly grind, we forget the transformation that students go through and that we facilitate.  
It's magical.  Nothing short of it.

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