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No winter commencement for late or early graduates

by Tori Martinez - ASSOCIATE MANAGING EDITOR
Tue, May 2nd 2017 06:00 pm
Photo courtesy of The College at Brockport on Flickr
CONGRATS GRADS - There is a number of students at The College at Brockport who will walk across the stage in May but have to return in Fall to complete their degree. Some students feel like they are mentally checking themselves out but the college can't afford a winter commencement.
Photo courtesy of The College at Brockport on Flickr CONGRATS GRADS - There is a number of students at The College at Brockport who will walk across the stage in May but have to return in Fall to complete their degree. Some students feel like they are mentally checking themselves out but the college can't afford a winter commencement.

You see it every April and May: department and grocery stores are full of "Congrats Grad!" decorations, seniors are thinking about filling out their final rent checks, buying their caps and gowns and going to their final classes. Last year, August 29 was their last first day of school and May 5 will be their last last day of classes. For most, except those who are moving onto graduate school, these are their final days in school. After years of elementary, middle school, high school and college, as soon as they walk across the stage Saturday, May 13, they are full-blown adults in search of or beginning a new career. 

A few students will be left behind. These students tend to be transfer students who started at a two-year school and got their associate degree, who then came to The College at Brockport to get their bachelor's degree. For transfer students and journalism and broadcasting majors Shane Thomas and Austin Speaker, walking across the stage in less than two weeks doesn't mean they're done with school. 

Every spring, a select number of students walk across the stage in May but return in September to finish one last semester of unfinished credits. These students, unlike the majority of students who receive their diplomas in May, receive their diplomas in December. Since there is only a commencement ceremony in the spring, the college allows students to participate in the commencement ceremony prior to or following the December they complete their degree. 

"While I have the option to walk, I'm not going to," Speaker said. "I feel like I would mentally check myself out."

Speaker explained that if he were to walk this May he would feel like he was done with college. As everyone would be taking pictures, hugging each other and saying their last goodbyes to their friends and the college. Speaker doesn't think he'd be able to handle coming back. He has to return in the fall to finish his coaching minor which he hadn't picked up until he came to Brockport from Monroe Community College (MCC). 

Like Speaker, Thomas has to come back in the fall to take two more classes for his major which, according to him, are only offered in the fall, but also has to take two more classes to fulfill Brockport's minimum credit requirement. The college only accepts 64 transfer credits, meaning a minimum of 56 credits need to be taken at Brockport. Although he understands that most of the problems he faces with graduating are related to him transferring from MCC, he wonders why there isn't a winter commencement ceremony. From his perspective, similar to Speaker's, participating in the commencement ceremony earlier or later than when he receives his degrees makes him feel cheated of the full graduation experience. He feels as though the sentiment would be lost. While all of his friends are saying goodbye, he knows it's not truly goodbye for him. If Thomas could walk during a winter ceremony, he'd rather do that.

"It's a no-brainer to walk this May because at least some of the sentimentality and some of the significance is there, rather than being completely done with your degree, being out of the college experience, not even coming to the school and then all of sudden jumping in and trying to be a part of it," Thomas said.

According to Interim Administrative Assistant Debbie Lamphron, the college does not have a winter commencement ceremony for one reason: the cost of all the resources that go into the ceremony would end up costing the students double what they currently pay and there is just not a demand for it. 

"There's not enough people graduating in the winter to warrant another ceremony," Lamphron said.

Mark J. Gardner, director of business opportunities and event management for Brockport Auxiliary Service Corporation, understands the issue of not graduating on time; Gardner himself did not walk during a commencement ceremony when he graduated in December 1976 from SUNY Fredonia. Gardner, along with other members of BASC, helps facilitate the spring commencement ceremony. When he was at Fredonia, he didn't even have the option to walk early. 

"We don't know of any SUNY comprehensive colleges that have a winter commencement ceremony for undergraduates," Gardner said.

Even if there was a winter commencement, Speaker said he wouldn't attend. Walking in the winter wouldn't be the same for him, since a big aspect of graduating is taking pictures outside in the nice spring weather. 

"Commencement is supposed to be on a beautiful day with taking pictures outside and no one wants to do that in December," Speaker said. "It wouldn't work with the demand and the time of the year."

Ideally, Thomas would like to graduate this spring, but he's learned to be okay with walking this May and graduating in December. He's ready to begin his last semester, taking a few more classes and becoming a teaching assistant  for Associate Professor of Communication Mary McCrank.

"I'm pumped to TA," Thomas said. "I've come to terms with it. It sucked at first to hear that there wasn't much I could do to try and graduate on time but it worked out so that I have a decent schedule for next semester."

@torimartinez3

lifestyles.editor@brockport.edu

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