Saturday, June 03, 2006


Graduation 2006 will start in a few hours. It's raining steadily, so a lot of people will be getting wet. There is a big tent set up on one of the lawns, but not quite everybody fits under the tent. The reception usually happens in the Newlin Gardens; this year I imagine that it will occur spread out in several buildings. Hopefully there'll be a break in the rain, but looking at the current satellite photos things don't look good.

Graduation is a great ceremony. At other schools I've been to they've sometimes been boring and even pompous. But at COA we do graduation well, and it's a highlight of the year. Part of this is because we're so small; around 70 students will graduate this afternoon. I probably know 50 of them, about half of the have taken at least one class from me, and several took multiple classes and/or were my advisees.

I was thinking last night how about differently students and faculty experience graduation. For students, it's a ceremony about change. It marks a transition from one stage of life to another. Faculty certainly feel some of this too, as we watch students undergo this transition, meet students' families, and celebrate together. But for faculty themselves -- at least for me -- the actual graduation and related events serve to underscore the cyclic nature of teaching. In some ways it's more of a holiday like a birthday or Christmas or Thanksgiving that reminds me of the passing of time. It's always somewhat hard to believe that it's time for Graduation (or an important birthday or anniversary) again.

Teaching isn't circular in a negative way at all. It's circular perhaps in the way the seasons are circular, or at least cyclic. Perhaps graduation is a particularly interesting time because there's a clear intersection between the circular life of teaching, and the less cyclic lives of students.

Enough geometric analysis, at least for now. I need to be on campus in a little more than two hours. Enough time to eat some pancakes, look for a nice pair pants, wash/dry/iron said pants, and hit the road. It's still raining, but the sky seems to be getting less dark.

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