After Convocation

Written by: Billie Clark

On Friday, June 3, 2016, I graduated.  Well, technically, I suppose, I “convocated”.  I’m not entirely sure what that means, but I did walk across a stage, shake some very important hands, get some very nice hugs, and walk away with a degree.

This experience—Convocation, and everything it entails—was very new to me; after all, the last time I graduated it was from high school, and the ceremony was held in November, of all things.  Unlike my high school or elementary school graduations, the TrentU Durham Convocation ceremony was short, sweet, and didn’t involve any distracting caps (we did, however, wear “hoods” and robes and I felt fairly magical, all things considered).  I know from speaking with them that many of my peers were nervous before the ceremony—what if we shook the wrong hands or tripped up the stairs to the stage (there were no stairs, thank goodness: it was a ramp) or tripped on our own feet and fell in the middle of the stage—but nobody was at all worried about how the ceremony would go, or if it would be unbearably long, or that they would be forgotten.  Everyone trusted that the entire ceremony, and all its little bits of tradition, would run smoothly and properly, despite having no precedent.

The June 2016 TrentU Durham Convocation was the first Trent University Convocation to be held in Durham Region.  This was a first that was emphasized during the ceremony, and it heralded the trend within the speeches—Dr Joel Baetz was presented with the Symmons Award for Teaching at the Convocation, marking him as the first TrentU Durham professor to win the award.  The convocation speech was given by Kathleen Taylor, a woman who has accomplished many firsts in her career, including being the first person to be presented with an Honorary Doctorate from the Durham campus of Trent University.  Among all these firsts, tradition remained—the graduates shouted before entering the section of the hall being used for the Convocation, a practice brought from Peterborough; the robes and hoods that represent the earliest traditions of Trent as a university (especially the robes and hats of some of the staff and faculty on stage—they were magnificent); and the slight pomp mixed with the instruction that the grads and parents enjoy themselves, which is so thoroughly Trent, and particularly TrentU Durham.

There were flowers and other gifts on sale prior to and after the ceremony, as well as a small selection from the Trent University Bookstore, including frames for brand-new degrees and certificates.   There was also a representative selling graduation rings.  Along with the different mementoes of the ceremony and the years spent at Trent, there was a photo-booth.  Open to graduates, their friends, and their family, professional photos were taken for free.

I know that there isn’t actually very much of me in this post—it’s more like a rundown of the Convocation given by someone who wasn’t graduating—but I have an excuse for that.  It is almost impossible for me to think of the graduation, the ceremony, the degree I now hold, and believe that it really happened.  It doesn’t feel like four years have gone by, though I know they have; it doesn’t feel like when I return to TrentU Durham in the fall it will be as an Alum and for a post-graduate certification; it doesn’t feel like it’s all over.  So until I’ve properly wrapped my head around all the implications of the Convocation ceremony, and have adjusted to all these small changes, you’ll just have to settle for this report.  I can sincerely say that it was a beautiful ceremony, and extremely touching, and I can’t wait to do it again next year!

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