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Today Was Graduation

Today was graduation.

It was the graduation ceremony of Full Sail University where my niece received her diploma. 

But before I tell you about how this relates to being “present in the moment” like my usual Today I posts, let me give you some context.

Full Sail does graduation unlike any other! This makes sense, as their degree programs are unique, too:

  • They begin a new class every month rather than every year (this means they also have a graduation ceremony each month)
  • Their online programs are some of the most well-established in the country
  • The bachelor degree is completed year-round in about two years instead of four with summers off
  • Their Career Services department has one of the largest staffs in the country and is committed to supporting students even years after they graduate

All these factors and more contribute to the way they celebrate graduates. The ceremony was not stuffy, not quiet, not calm; it reflected the joy, triumph, and individuality of the students. 

The emcee began by welcoming everyone not at a podium – he worked the stage, told jokes, and interacted with the crowd! He invited us to cheer for the graduates as names were called – they’ve earned this moment and we were going to give it to them! He was still in a nice suit and the graduates wore academic robes; the added personality didn’t detract from the professionalism. 

As the grads were announced and walked across the stage, they shook the hand of their program department head and stopped at the center to pose for a picture before heading back to their seats. This may seem like a small change from a traditional ceremony, but it made a huge difference, one that I’m still thinking about weeks later. 

Every single graduate had their moment. Each student held their diploma, stood in front of hundreds of people who cheered, clapped, stood, and smiled in response to their hard work. It was not a drive-by rolling applause as the emcee read names; it was clear that the applause was for each of them.

Some of the graduates earned awards in addition to their diplomas. They recognized the traditional valedictorian and salutatorian academic awards. There were also awards given by the course directors that were related to character instead of GPA. The students who earned these stood center stage for even a few more moments being cheered for as the emcee read off their accomplishments. 

Although this was just a subtle change from a traditional graduation service, it had a profound impact:

  • There was a greater sense of community, not only among classmates but among the support systems of the graduates
  • It was a clear celebration of the student rather than the institution 
  • I was reminded of how important passion and belonging are to progress

Let me explain this last point more. One of the biggest degree programs represented was Game Design. Full Sail is focused on the arts and media – lighting, audio engineering, graphic design, cybersecurity, digital media, etc. The walls of the auditorium lobby are lined with alumni achievements such as video games they’ve developed, props from TV and movies, Emmy awards for lighting and sound, and more. The men and women who earned degrees in Game Design were able to see tangibly how they belong in the world. For many of these students, presumably, they’ve been told most of their lives, “You can’t just play videogames all day! Be a productive member of society!” These people got to see, maybe for the first time, that their passions have a place. Their passion has a purpose. Their passion is productive. These graduates got to see that what they love to do matters

They had a place, maybe for the first time, that they belonged

I also imagine many of them weren’t great students academically in high school. I’m going off of a lot of stereotypes here, so I could be very wrong. But I assume that these students did poorly in the traditional subjects of Math, Science, and Literature, but thrived in classes like Game Design, Psychology of Play, and 3D Content Creation. I assume they had written off going to college altogether before finding Full Sail. But today at graduation, we got to celebrate them.

The emcee also highlighted veterans and first generation college students to stand. This was my favorite part! The men and women who were the first in their families to go to college exuded the joy, accomplishment, and pride of all the generations before them. The family members and friends in the crowd to see this historic first cheered with the intensity of all their ancestors. It was a beautiful moment seeing history being made, not just for one, but for generations to come. 

Today was graduation. 

My niece received her college diploma as valedictorian with five additional awards. She was surrounded by classmates breaking down barriers and living out their passions. 

It was a clear display of purpose and passion aligning for the betterment of individual people and the world. 

Thanks for making this a part of your day!
Feel free to share it with others!

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