Student Stories

College Media Editors' Farewell: Reflections on Convocation

UChicago College’s 2017 Convocation featured new and old traditions. Following the University-wide conferral of degrees by President Robert J. Zimmer, students graduated with their residence halls in eight individual diploma ceremonies. Our College Media Editors from the class of 2017 reflect on their Convocation Experiences.

Sarah Manhardt, Max Palevsky Residential Commons

I met one of my best friends in the College on the very first day of orientation week, waiting in line to pick up our UCIDs. Four years later, on our very last day of College, I watched him and other friends I made on that first day receive their diplomas. While we no longer lived in Graham House in Max Palevsky Residential Commons, our diploma ceremony reminded me of where we began and how much we have grown since then.

The Max Palevsky (Max P) Residential Commons graduation was one of the largest diploma ceremonies, hosted on the Main Quad. Max P consists of three connected buildings that are pink, purple, and yellow, and we wore purple, pink, and yellow cords in case anyone forgot how distinctive the dorm is. Our ceremony consisted of opening remarks from Resident Master Jason Wriggle, a student performance, the conferral of diplomas, and closing words from Flint House Resident Head Aaron Banman.

While the ceremony itself is a bit of a blur, I most clearly remember the feeling of watching my best friends receive their diplomas. Our diplomas represent not only four years of academic work, but they also embody so many more experiences as well: waking up to go to Kuvia but then hiding in a closet to avoid actually exercising at 6 AM. Taking the CTA to see Hamilton using our UChicago Arts Pass. Walking to Promontory Point to remind ourselves of how small UChicago is in comparison to the city and the rest of the world.

My friends are now scattered across the country from Boston to Boise, but we finished the way we started: together.

Sarah Zimmerman, Campus North-East

Four years ago, when it was finally time to submit housing requests, I made sure to ask for the house with the least amount of house culture. I never was one for group social interactions or anything remotely resembling “team bonding.” I decided to request the now-retired Blackstone House, a satellite dorm a few blocks off campus. Although I lived in housing for two years, my perspective on house culture never changed. While I participated in some house events (mainly attending study breaks to steal food), and did make two or three incredibly close friends, I never had a close-knit relationship with the entire house. By no means was Blackstone House a second family for me.

So, when I learned that graduation ceremonies this year would be split up by dorm, I didn’t expect much. After all, I haven’t seen most of these people in two to three years. And, since Blackstone didn’t have a Resident Master, I didn’t actually know the person who would be handing me my diploma—current North Residential Commons East RM James Evans.

Standing in the wind tunnel between North and Baker Dining Hall, clutching my motorboard and waiting to walk in the procession, I was able to catch up with people who were a constant presence in my life for two years.

That’s when I realized how much my house really did shape my College experience. Sure, I didn’t participate in Scav or Kuvia or many of the house trips and traditions. I couldn’t really relate to the student speakers, who all focused on how their RAs, RMs, or even these house-related events shaped their time here at UChicago. But, there was something profound about being surrounded by the same people you were with on the first night of O-Week. Four years ago we were scared and vulnerable, desperate to make connections with those around us. In a subtle way, we all bonded during those first few weeks of College as we showed the insecurities typical of 18 year olds in a new space with no friends. Although I didn’t connect with many people in my house, I still know all of their names, personalities, and interests. With no awkwardness, even four years later, we would still smile and wave to each other as we hurried across the quad to our next class. Despite the fact our lives often went completely separate ways, it was impossible to break the small bond we made by being in the same place during the most stressful and nerve-wracking times of a College student’s life.

So, reuniting with them four years later, I was moved to see us all no longer as teenagers, but as confident adults who have achieved so much over the past few years. It felt like my College experience had officially come full circle. From young and naïve first years, to self-assured and accomplished fourth-years, there’s something incredibly special and intimate about seeing the same group of people change, transform, and ultimately be ready to tackle life after graduation head-on.

Christine Schmidt, International House/Stony Island

My hall-specific graduation ceremony began the same way a lot of my nights in International House began—with the long trek from the Main Quad to the dorm at 59th and Dorchester. Except this time, my friends and I wore black gowns and mortarboards instead of backpacks, and knew we’d get strawberries and champagne afterward instead of the typical baked goods during study breaks.

When we first all moved into the dorm, we had no idea we’d be graduating on the front lawn four years later, after snowball fights, picnics, Ultimate Frisbee, and using it to cross the Midway diagonally to find the shortest route to the far-off Cathey Dining Commons. But now I considered myself very lucky to be receiving my diploma in this special ceremony alongside people who went from random strangers to becoming my dear housemates and College family members.

We clutched our mortarboards and cords as tightly as the Resident Masters and Resident Heads held their banners, leading the procession around the corner of the building and straight into a wind tunnel. Though the Resident Masters had changed since I lived in I-House, the current couple had invited the previous RMs to kick off the ceremony. After a reflection by Professor Forrest Stuart on the civic responsibilities that accompanied the privilege of a college education, the current and previous Resident Heads of Booth House (Best House!), Thompson, and Breckinridge read off our names as we walked across the stage. Seeing my best friends of all majors graduate alongside each other, and making sure they heard my cheers, was one of the best parts of the ceremony.

The most memorable moment, however, came once we all had our diplomas in our hands. The Resident Master invited someone onstage that nobody in the crowd recognized—well, nobody except for that person’s longtime and long-distance girlfriend. Two seats away from me, she suddenly started breathing heavily. It turns out that she had been upset with her boyfriend for not being able to make her graduation, and she was clearly surprised to realize that he was not in Miami, but striding up onstage in a suit, holding a bouquet of flowers. And then he turned to look at her:

“Every single day that I have been away from you, I learned to love you even more,” he said, as we all let out—because how could you not—a collective “Awwww!”’.

He got down on one knee and asked her one particular question.

And like most of us embracing life after UChicago, she said “Yes!”