‘Why we walk’: Students share why they are — or are not — walking at graduation

MTSU social work graduate students help each other prepare for fall 2015 commencement inside Murphy Center.

Tomorrow, hundreds of seniors will arrive at Murphy Center to participate in their commencement ceremony. Graduations are notoriously long and tedious, and regardless of students’ participation in the ceremony, they will still receive a diploma. So, why do they walk?

Some MTSU students explained their motive behind sitting through a 3-hour ceremony to receive a piece of paper.

“It’s a really big moment. I’ve been working for this degree,” said senior Christin Clark. “It’s a moment to be proud of all the work you’ve done.”

In order to graduate from MTSU as an undergraduate, one must complete at least 120 hours of credit and maintain at least a 2.0 grade point average. In addition, many majors require students to take on minors, clinicals or internships.

At MTSU, approximately 46 percent of students graduate within six years, accoring to College Factual. It also reports that only 20 percent of students graduate on time. Walking at graduation is a way to receive recognition for accomplishing what many students never will.

Family is also an important factor in students’ decision to participate in commencement. Clark and senior Sam Stockard will both have extended family in attendance at the ceremony.

“I am having family come to watch me walk across, and I think that was a big influence in whether I decided to walk or not,” Clark said.

For some, graduation is a concrete moment in which students feel their time as academics is complete and their time as young professionals begins. It serves as a bookend to the college experience. MTSU Reigstrar Susan Fieldhouse said that the graduation ceremony “puts an end to one chapter and begins another.”

Fieldhouse said 2,170 students are expected to graduate this semester, and 1,926 of them plan on walking in their ceremony. That’s nearly 89 percent of this year’s graduating class.

Stockard said his favorite part of the graduation ceremony will “probably be just relishing in the moment that I’m done.”

James Farley, who graduated in August of 2016, said he did not have that experience. “It didn’t really feel real until the next semester when I wasn’t going to class,” he said.

He was in a wedding on the same day and chose not to walk in his graduation ceremony. “It was an easy choice,” he said. “The wedding was way more important than walking.”

He said in hindsight, he was glad he made that decision.

For some students, the opportunity to walk at graduation holds a deeper meaning than personal accomplishment. “ Especially being a minority, the fact that I can go to college, get a degree and hopefully get a really good job is a really big deal,” Stockard said.

Stockard’s mother is African American, and he said that it was very important to her that he and his sister graduate from college.

“The graduation ceremony is an important milestone for students and their families,” Fieldhouse said.

She said that most students who choose not to participate are busy enrolling in graduate programs or may have completed school online from out of town or even out of state.

After graduation, Stockard plans to move to California pursuing artistic goals in photography. Clark said she has a job lined up after graduation. She said she would take two weeks before starting so that she could have “a moment to breathe” after being in school for 16 years.

There will be two graduation ceremonies on May 6, the first of which will be held at 9 a.m. and the other at 2 p.m. The first ceremony will recognize undergraduates from the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, the Jennings A. Jones College of Business, the College of Media and Entertainment, and the College of Education. The afternoon ceremony is for undergraduate students in the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences, the College of Liberal Arts and the University College.

To contact Lifestyles Editor Wesley McIntyre email lifestyles@mtsusidelines.com.

For more updates, follow us at www.mtsusidelines.com, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter/Instagram at @Sidelines_Life.


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