For senior Jennifer Cielinski, being a December graduate comes with mixed feelings.
St. Thomas administrators decided last spring to eliminate December commencement ceremonies because of the ceremony’s proximity to Christmas, the low number of graduates compared to the May ceremony, and budget concerns, but they’re still unsure how it will affect students.
“I’m sure most students are interested in going through a graduation ceremony right when they graduate,” said Liz Pojar, commencement coordinator. “But if they identify with the class of 2011, I think some will be fine participating in the May ceremony,”
Pojar said the university does not know exactly how much money will be saved by eliminating the winter ceremony.
“It’s kind of hard to tell because this is our first year not having a December commencement, and it will be our first spring adding people that would’ve participated in December,” she added.
Students who would have attended the December ceremony can participate in the May one instead. If they choose not to participate in the spring ceremony, their degree will be posted on their transcript, and diplomas will be ordered for graduating students, said Paul Simmons, university registrar.
Cielinski said eliminating the December ceremony didn’t affect her decision to graduate early as a math and secondary education major because she always planned to walk in May with her friends. This semester she was required to student teach at a school in Highland Park. While she isn’t at St. Thomas for the spring semester, she plans to continue teaching somewhere in Minnesota.
“I’m looking at a lot of teacher positions right now,” Cielinski said. “There’s a lot of maternity leave positions open, which is a benefit of graduating halfway through the year. Eventually the hope is to move into a full-time position though.”
Although there are benefits to graduating in December, Cielinski said it isn’t always easy.
“It’s really hard not to be at the same pace and at a different place in your life than your friends are, and it’s hard to convince myself that I’m graduating very soon because no one else around me is,” she said. “To think of the memories they’re still going to make when I’m gone is hard.”
Cielinski said there is a lack of closure to graduating early, and she thinks the closest feeling she will get to it is moving out of her apartment this week. But she said things will work out for the best in the end.
“Since I’m from out of state, it is too hard to have my whole family come up for graduation the week before Christmas and move out of my apartment at the same time,” Cielinski said. “So it definitely has its benefits for me, my family and my friends.”
Ashley Stewart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.