Love, Peace, and Graduation

Posted: November 21, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

Robert Morris University’s Fall graduation was this past weekend at the Arie Crown Theater in Chicago. As is our tradition, the faculty, staff, and administrators proceed backstage after the ceremony and form two lines. The students then walk between the lines and have the opportunity to celebrate with us before they go find their family and friends.

It’s like an academic soul train line. Don Cornelius would either be proud or horrified.

Love, Peace, and Soul.

Love, Peace, and Soul.

This is, without a doubt, my favorite part of every graduation. I love seeing how excited the students are to have reached this moment. After watching the seniors trudge around campus for months – exhausted, stressed, and wearing whatever happened to be clean – they are now wearing their best clothes and biggest smiles.

Selfishly, I stand by hoping that I will get lots of handshakes and hugs from my students. While this is their day, this moment also tells me a bit about myself. Some students can be effusive with their love (or hatred) of a teacher; other students are coy about their feelings. There have been times when a student has run up to me in that line and given me a bearhug and thanked me for everything, and that was the first hint that I had any impact on that student at all. The lineup can be a nice indicator that I’m doing something right as a teacher.

Superficially, hugs and handshakes are also like graduation day Facebook ‘LIKES’ and I totally want more ‘LIKES’ than all the other professors!

And if the day comes that I’m the only teacher at the university, I’ll finally win.

Graduation is a bittersweet moment, though. I’ve worked with and known some of these students for years are they are now leaving the nest. Except in rare cases, I won’t be working with or even seeing them again. I’ve considered failing some students just so they could hang out longer, but that wouldn’t be ethical.

One graduate or another will pop into mind during a normal workweek, and I’ll be curious about what that student is doing now. With social media, I suppose it’s technically possible for faculty to keep up with lots of alums, but that’s impractical…and possibly creepy.

Plus, the sweet sorrow of commencement is offset by a new crop of interesting students and stories right around the corner. Just as one set of relationships end, a whole batch is about to begin. That certainly adds excitement and spontaneity to my profession.

Congratulations to all of the graduates! Come back, visit, tell us about the amazing things you accomplish.

And to current students, remember to shake my hand or hug me on that big day. My fragile ego needs it.

RMU Graduation! (About an hour before the ceremony started.)

RMU Graduation! (About an hour before the ceremony started.)

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