Graduation at VSU is 37 days away.
Graduating seniors have a little over a month left of undergraduate assignments, tests, quizzes and class. Seniors also only have 37 days to get caps, gowns, friends and family members ready for the big day.
If anyone has ever been to a graduation ceremony, particularly at a university, he or she knows it’s one of the best events in a person’s life. He or she also knows graduation ceremonies are one of the longest and often most boring events in a person’s life for everyone involved.
Outside of hearing your own name called or a friend or family member’s name called, the ceremony is usually a snooze-fest.
One portion of graduation that usually determines whether it was an enjoyable experience for participants and spectators is the commencement speech. If the commencement speaker is boring and can’t relate to the graduates, the ceremony will be painfully long. However, if the speaker is relevant, energetic and not redundant, the ceremony will be an enjoyable and memorable time for all involved. At least before the names begin to get called.
In the last few years, the commencement ceremony has gone through many changes, many of which to make it more memorable and less boring. Prior to 2016, the ceremony was held in the Complex over two days, with certain colleges graduating on Friday and others on Saturday.
When Cecil Staton became interim president at VSU, he oversaw changes to the ceremony including putting every ceremony on one day. The changes included individual ceremonies for every college at different times around campus as well as one large, more traditional ceremony at night on the football field with fireworks and a keynote speaker.
VSU alumnus and CEO of the United Services Automobile Association became VSU’s first commencement speaker in quite some time.
When Kelli Brown took over the presidency last fall, she nixed the individual ceremonies and held the fall commencement ceremony on the front lawn. The ceremony included a laser show and VSU alumnus and former Miss Georgia Amanda Miliner as the speaker.
The fireworks and the lasers were cool, but graduates don’t need gimmicks to have an unforgettable commencement ceremony. They need an entertaining, intellectual individual with ties to Valdosta State University who will be thought provoking and provide encouragement to those entering the workforce, higher levels of education, the military or other new challenges facing them.
As students, especially seniors, we shouldn’t wait for the university to come up with someone to meet the needs of graduates and their families and friends. Students should do some research, come together and find a person with ties to VSU who embodies success and will appropriately send the 2017 graduates into the next chapter of their lives.
VSU has a rich history with a lot of successful alumni. Our next great commencement speaker is out there. Start a social media campaign. Storm this person’s inbox. Make them want to come speak at graduation. Present to him or her our university and its hardworking and diverse student body. Make
them want to come home to VSU and share some knowledge they have gathered in their time away from Valdosta.
Only students know what students truly want and need. Rather than wait for the university to find a speaker and complain about their choice, go get someone who will make graduation a memorable experience for graduates and other attendees.