After completing my last course, I have mixed feelings about my upcoming graduation in November. I’ve been a visiting student at UVic for the past 12 months, and feel like I am a UVic student. I’ve been very impressed by the quality of teaching at this university, and by access to library resources, student services and the sense of community at the university. My experiences here have engendered significant loyalty to this institution.
However, I will be graduating from UBC in November. This is because I started my B.A. there several years ago, and earned more than half my credits there, before deciding to move to Victoria and complete my degree. Universities tend to require that you do 50% or more of your courses at an institution to be granted a degree there, with good reason. However, because I have developed such a keen sense of place at UVic over the past year, it feels weird that I’m going to end up with a B.A. from UBC.
I also feel weird about the graduation ceremonies themselves. Yesterday, I read a disturbing article posted on the UBC Alumni Media Network blog in June, that critically examined what the author claimed were repetitive, irrelevant, contradictory, offensive speeches by the chancellor and president during spring convocation. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know what exactly was said or whether it was as bad as the UBCAMN claimed.
But I do have ambivalent feelings about my graduation ceremony. On one hand, my wife Francesca Smith-Jones*; said that her 2009 graduation ceremony was the first time that she felt connected to the institution that she had spent five years studying at. That’s a sad commentary on her educational experience at UBC, but I would like to feel some sense of community connection to my soon-to-be alma mater. On the other hand, she said that the ceremony itself was long, boring and expensive; my perspective in the audience was similar.
I also have reservations about the honourary degrees to be conferred in November. As of today, only two recipients are listed for eight ceremonies over three days. Julie Payette and Louis Nirenberg are both worthy candidates for honourary degrees, but neither feels relevant to my degree in history. I’m not sure what they can say that might particularly inspire me at this juncture in my life, since their experiences in their chosen fields seem so remote from my own. Perhaps UBC will decide on more recipients between now and November.
Despite my reservations, I’ve decided to go to my ceremony. I do want a formal recognition of the effort that I’ve put into achieving this credential. I wonder how I’ll feel about it after spending a whole bunch money to get to Vancouver, spend a night there before my 9:30 ceremony, rent a gown, and sat through an hour and a half of talking. I’ll let you know.
*Not her real name.