Commencement More Than Just A Ceremony

Zach Trueblood

Staff Writer

Graduation and the commencement ceremony here at Parkland are not simply a night filled with people walking across a stage. It is a night that represents the culmination of years of hard work. Those students participating have put long hours into earning their associate’s degree or certificate.

As important as the degrees being received are, all the behind the scenes work that goes into preparing for the commencement ceremony is equally important. This preparation starts many months before the actual ceremony will take place and requires Parkland staff to work together to insure a smooth commencement ceremony.

Secretary of Student Life Sarah Minyard plays an important role in the commencement process. Her first commencement was in 2008, so she’s been part of the process for about seven years.

“I oversee the cap and gown ordering portion,” Minyard explained. “We order the caps, gowns, and other products and distribute them. I also create the seating chart for that night. Any inquiries about commencement are generally directed to me and those start as early as December.”

In addition to overseeing much of the beforehand aspects of the ceremony, Minyard also assists the students in getting to their proper places at Krannert. Due to the fact that Student Life sees many, if not all, of these students during their orientation, Minyard feels sentiment and an attachment to many of them.

“You can really feel the energy that night of commencement. As they walk across I do get a bit emotional. We generally see them when they first start here in orientation, then help them join student organizations and now they’re moving on. It’s a big moment for everyone with a lot of emotions tied to it,” Minyard said.

She also wanted to make it clear that the college does everything in its power to insure that everyone that wants to participate is able to. Some students choose not to participate for various reasons, such as transferring to another institution and waiting to walk the stage there. For those that do participate, it’s a major accomplishment that they wish to share it with friends, loved ones and fellow students.

This year will be the second ceremony that Krystal Garrett, Administrative Assistant to the Vice President for Student Services, will be a part of. She is essentially the event planner of the ceremony. She starts preparation for the ceremony in the fall of the previous year and continues after the students have crossed the stage.

“My role is to make sure that tasks remain on track, stay within budget, and ensure that all details are complete and in place for the big day,” Garrett stated. “In fact, tasks continue long after the roar of celebration has ended. The paying of invoices, returning of gowns and post-commencement meetings are just some of the duties that follow.”

Garrett stressed the importance of making sure all aspects of the ceremony run smoothly. She explained that his can be challenging at times but it’s ultimately worth it.

“There are so many components to organizing such an amazing event. It truly is a collaborative effort between many of the Student Services departments and several others throughout the college,” Garrett explained. “It’s like completing a puzzle. Every piece is vital. If pieces are missing, then the entire picture is off. Organizing this event requires a lot of time, focus, and communication.”

There aren’t very many venues in Champaign that can accommodate a big event such as Parkland’s commencement ceremony. The Assembly Hall is generally booked for preparation for their own graduation.

The Great Hall at the Krannert Center is where this year’s commencement ceremony will take place. Krannert seats roughly 2,000 people and can comfortably house the ceremony.

Director of Student Life Dr. Thomas Caulfield explained some of the advantages to having the event at Krannert and what else transpires during the ceremony. Dr. Caulfield has been part of the commencement process for 17 years.

“The Great Hall is really a great location. It’s acoustically perfect, big and vibrant. It’s really a special day for students and their families,” Dr. Caulfield stated. “We always have a phenomenal keynote speaker with a small social afterwards. Students can meet up with others from the same department while enjoying cookies and punch. It’s kind of like one last hoorah for their time here at Parkland.”

One big question that always arises around the time of commencement is how many tickets do students get? The amount of tickets is ultimately determined by how many students decide to walk that night.

A good estimate is about three tickets. Any extra tickets are sent to Krannert and will be dispersed on a first come first served basis. As long as any extra attendees are there on time, there shouldn’t be an issue of getting a seat.

Cap and gown ordering dates are as follows: Monday, March 30 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 31 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Wednesday, April 1 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. Thursday, April 2 12 p.m. – 5 p.m. and Friday, April 3 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Cap and gown orders can be placed in Student Life located in U111. The estimated cost for the basic cap and gown will $23.00.