Pomp and circumstance

By Brianna Wellen

As the last few weeks of school dwindle down, an all-important event builds momentum: graduation, or as those at Columbia call it to sound fancier and more important, Commencement. I’ve already had three graduations. My kindergarten graduation ceremony consisted of a performance of Noah’s Ark. For my eighth-grade graduation, I entered a competition to give the commencement speech and lost. High school graduation was dominated by the daunting task of figuring out how to get past “robe checks” with Silly String still intact for the ceremony.

Looking back on those scenes, I begin to realize that though I am a veteran of graduating, college graduation will be the first one that really matters.

I came to Columbia as a freshman in 2008 and four years later will be walking across the stage of the Chicago Theatre to receive an empty folder that will eventually hold my diploma. I’ve learned that graduating in four years is becoming somewhat of a rarity these days, and based on Columbia’s retention rates, the fact that myself and so many others I know have done so is nothing short of amazing. For all the heartache Columbia may have caused this year’s graduates in the run-up to graduation, they certainly know how to send us out in style.

As my graduation gets closer, my father relayed to me the tale of his. It was in his school’s gymnasium, everyone was a sweaty mess because there was no air conditioning and the graduating class had to listen to a small town mayor, senator or another equally boring politician speak for an hour. When I later tell the story of my graduation, I’ll be able to say I graduated in downtown Chicago at the historic Chicago Theatre and listened to legendary gospel singer Mavis Staples pass on her words of wisdom and sing. Sorry, Dad, but my story will be better.

This year’s Commencement will be the first time many students get to see President Warrick L. Carter in person and shake his hand, along with other seemingly nonexistent administrators. While it seems unnecessary for someone who had such little impact on my education to be congratulating me, I’m looking forward to the bit of face time I’ll get with Carter. Maybe in those few seconds I can summarize my thoughts on prioritization and make him realize the importance of certain programs that I hold dear.

Despite everything, I’m proud of myself and my colleagues for surviving Columbia, the world of higher education and the economic environment during some shaky times. All three could have easily swayed my graduating class to jump ship.

So when we finally have what I expect to be an extravagant ceremony that only Columbia could pull off, it will be the most exciting graduation any of us have encountered, and we should all take a moment to congratulate ourselves on our Commencement.