Tag Archives: academic regalia

Here’s What Touched My Heart

I recall writing this post about the Graduate College ceremonies two years ago.  This Friday, I’ll get to walk through the same ceremony as a doctoral candidate…to celebrate completing the last of my educational requirements.  I’m still working on my dissertation, but am preparing to defend and complete that process no later than mid-July of this summer.

I was thinking about this post because it’s interesting to change perspectives – being a graduate, being faculty, then being a graduate again.  I’m looking forward to Friday…to sitting with my doctoral advisor, to smiling as I get hooded, and to being with my family.  I’m a sucker for academic regalia, so am exited to have three velvet stripes on the sleeves of my robe this time, and a velvet tam on my head.  But mostly, I’m looking forward to being finished: with enrolling, with paying tuition (about 35K and counting…), and with having more hoops through which to jump.  I’ll be glad the hoop jumping is complete.

I know there will always be hoops in life – job hoops, tax hoops, qualifying hoops of one sort or another.  But, to know the educational hoops are about the end is, to me, one of the most exhilarating feelings I’ve ever experienced.  To me, that’s what Friday will mean. ~ Peace, RDK

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Last night I reported to Gallagher Iba Arena just before 6:00 p.m.  My assignment?  To assist master’s candidates with their academic regalia.  I had my instructions: Medallions first, cords second, hoods, then caps.  Also, tassels on the LEFT.

In December of 2001 I was being assisted with this process, rather than being the one who assists.  My perspective was so different this time.  As I jockeyed with those guarding the door who wanted to see my credentials, asked where I was to report and then finally seemed to be convinced I had a reason to be there I began wondering if I would be of any use to the students.  After all, they were getting their Master’s Degrees, right?

That question was put quickly to bed once I had walked down the hallway and into one of the practice gyms.  All around the room students were jostling with their regalia.  “What do I do with this little loopy-thingy?”  “Is this on right?”  “Can you help me with the zipper on my gown? It’s stuck.”  “Do you have any bobby pins?” “Hey, someone brought safety pins, cool!”  The comments circled around the room and repeated themselves over and over as the room filled almost to capacity.  Where were all these Master’s candidates coming from?  Did we have three, four or even six times this many on our campus?  I was genuinely surprised at the numbers.  I would guess there were at least 400 or more milling around in their friendship groups.  I noticed between eight and ten older, “returning” students (read: those my age or older…some with a full head of gray hair) standing alone.  The eight or ten appeared, by and large, peaceful and happy.  I think they were just standing in the midst of the hubbub taking in all they could.

The “traditional” students (read: those between 24 and 28 years old) were standing around in groups of two, three, eight or even more.  They were rapidly speaking to each other and helping one another with their hair, regalia, holding phones, taking photos, etc.  One group of tall young men in the corner broke out in the “Oh-lay-oh-lay-oh-lay-oh-LAAAYYY (Ole, Ole…)” song.  They were jumping up and down to the beat of the song, and sang it three or four times through. Continue reading Here’s What Touched My Heart

Day 32: “Well Done!” Day vs. “Congratulations!” (aka Oxford v OSU)

I was thinking this morning about translation.  If I have to spend this much energy translating American English to Britain English, what must international students be doing?  I say this because yesterday was the “big day” for many Oxford students; the day of graduation exercises.  For the most part, emotions expressed by the graduates and their families were the same as I witness at OSU every Spring and fall.  The words and the traditions with which they express those emotions, however, are slightly different.

For example, the academic regalia throughout all the colleges here is stepped up considerably.  There are strict regulations about what you wear underneath your gown, as well as what you wear on top of your regular  clothes (which are regulated by the previous regulations, on a regular basis).  This girl has done a nice job at following the required standards – dark skirt, white blouse, and her BA robe trimmed in white rabbit fur.

I won’t make this entire essay a comparative piece, but I will say that the variety of what our students at Oklahoma State University (OSU) wear under their robes covers a broader range of selections.  I know this because our students usually put their robe on right BEFORE graduation, and take it off right AFTER.  I’ve seen graduates traipsing around Oxford in theirs, now, for the last three days.

Family of the graduates in Oxford have to work a bit harder as well.  Because of the limited space for the grand halls used for commencement exercises, they have to order tickets for each person.  Oxford will “do its best to accommodate as many as possible on a first come, first served basis.”

Okay, this IS a comparative piece.  At OSU, our general attitude is, “Bring everyone!  It’s Gallagher-Iba Arena, for Pete’s sake! We hold several ceremonies just so everyone can attend..the more, the merrier!” (Was that too many exclamation points?!)

Many of the ceremonies at Oxford are conducted in Latin.  At OSU, we speak Cowboy.

In Oxford, the graduate celebrations and receptions include a full table of chilled champagne.  OSU is an alcohol-free campus.

And, in Oklahoma we usually greet a graduate with a hearty, “Congratulations!”  Here, the standard greeting is, “Well done!”

At OSU, the atmosphere inside Gallagher-Iba tends to be celebratory, and sometimes quite loud (drums and bagpipes, air horns, large group yells as a family hears their student’s name).  At Oxford, most of the ceremony is really very quiet.  Here is a video of the matriculation (entering the university for the first semester) ceremony.  You can see how quiet the proceedings are.

Matriculation at Oxford – running time, 1 minute, 29 seconds

And here is a 30 second video of part of the Latin graduation ceremony, illustrating the bowing in respect to the faculty tradition…(fondly referenced among the students as the “Sheldonian Wave,” – Sheldonian Hall being the place where the ceremony is held).

The Sheldonian Wave

I don’t have to tell any of my Okie friends how something like the Sheldonian Wave might be viewed by the student body at OSU.  I think you know.

We may simply not have the patience for this kind of pomp and circumstance in the U.S.  Certainly not in Oklahoma.  I recently served as a “name reader” during our commencement ceremony and the key concept was, “Keep them moving along.  Read loudly, articulate each syllable, and as quickly as is comfortable for you.”  One of my friends said in jest after the ceremony that “it’s sort of like listening to six game show hosts read a thousand names, where everybody won.”

The faster paced process in Oklahoma, however, has it’s advantages.  For example, here is an excerpt from Oxford’s policy on sending students their diplomas:

“Your award certificate will be sent to your home address (as recorded on the university’s student information system) within 4 months of the date that the award was conferred (ie the examination committee date).”

And…here is OSU’s:

“Diplomas are available to students approximately 6 weeks after their graduation date.”

Yeah, buddy!  I’ve also learned that students here received their grades for a regular examination approximately six weeks after they take it, due to the exams being sent through three reviewers.  The professors here exasperate over how wonderful it would be to teach in the U.S….for very reasons such as this.

So what is the same?  The sense of family.  The sense of accomplishment.  The look of pride on a parent’s face and the beaming jubilation that a goal was achieved on the part of the student.

Regardless of American English OR British English…or, I would venture to write, any language found, the emotions associated with graduation are by and large exactly the same around the world.

So…if you’ve ever experienced graduation as a student or a family member, and are asked some day if you speak another language, just tell ’em: “Yeah.  I speak Graduation.”  It will be true.

Above, a picture of a proud “mum” walking by her graduate son in case you have any doubt left.  You can’t tell it by looking, but she’s pointing out to the family of another graduate that, “…this was where my son lived for four years.  We’re here to celebrate his graduation!”  By the look on the son’s face, I think he’s just fine with that little bit ‘o mama pride.

I walked by them to my dorm room, ducked under a few cameras taking pictures, looked at the proud mama and whispered, “Well done!”

She beamed.

One more thing…You know OSU wins, right?  If I’m writing, OSU ALWAYS wins.  I wouldn’t trade the OSU Alma Mater, singing “Oklahoma!” and cheering like crazy for our students for anything in the WORLD.  The WHOLE world.