GV celebrates graduate achievements during 25th winter commencement

<p>GVSU Commencement on Saturday December 9, 2017.  GVL / Archive</p>

GVSU Commencement on Saturday December 9, 2017.  GVL / Archive

James Kilborn

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On Saturday Dec. 8, students graduating from Grand Valley State University will gather to celebrate their achievements during the university’s winter commencement ceremony. The event will stand as a finale for many students as they transition from the classroom into established careers within their fields. The event will begin at 10 a.m. at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids. 

Student Senate President Rachel Jenkin notes that this commencement will be unique, as it will be the first GVSU commencement to feature student speakers. 

“This will be the first time we have a student speaker and I think it is a huge testament to Grand Valley’s dedication of being student-centered and how much we value students,” Jenkin said. “As what I said to the provost and the president, being in a crowd and seeing someone speak who was maybe your lab partner, lived in your freshman dorm (or) was in a club with you builds off of that community that Grand Valley is so well known for. 

“It creates a sense of representation, and since this will be happening for every commencement from here on out, I think having the student senate president speak at convocation and then a student speak during commencement shows students that from the beginning to the end and everywhere in between, Grand Valley puts students first.”

Graduating student Danielle Mallory views commencement as a bittersweet event. While graduation represents the culmination of years of hard work, she says she’ll miss the friends and faculty she’s connected with during her time at GVSU. 

“Graduating feels both exciting and overwhelming,” Mallory said. “It’s exciting to be starting this new chapter of my life, but that also means I have a lot of decisions to make. I know a few people who are also graduating and the general consensus is excitement for what lies ahead.”

The tradition of GVSU’s commencement ceremonies spans the university’s almost 60-year history. Early graduation ceremonies took place at the Civic Auditorium in Grand Rapids until the Fieldhouse Arena was constructed in 1969. Increasing class sizes at GVSU during the 1990s coupled with the construction of Van Andel Arena in 1996 resulted in graduation ceremonies moving back to Grand Rapids in 1997. This semester’s commencement also represents the 25th winter commencement in the university’s history. 

Jenkin states that the event is a celebration of not only academic achievements but of the relationships made both inside and outside of the classroom. 

“I think commencement is a huge celebration of accomplishment no matter how long you’ve been at Grand Valley,” Jenkin said. “I also think it is essential that students get to hear from not only faculty and administrators, but from one of their own who has undergone the same challenges, hardships, triumphs and memories, regardless if they’ve been here for one semester, six years, or any other time frame.”

In celebrating these academic achievements, graduates must also leave behind the student’s life of studying, going to class and being around peers on a daily basis. Mallory said that through her time at GVSU, she’s developed a connection that will be difficult to part with.

“Personally, I have spent about half of my undergraduate studies at Grand Valley, but I am still sad to be leaving,” Mallory said. “I’ve only lived in Grand Rapids for about three to four years, but it already feels like home to me. I’m also going to miss the friends I’ve made that aren’t graduating.”

Students, faculty, friends and families will gather Saturday to celebrate the achievements of this graduating class. While the event represents completing the requirements of a collegiate degree, crossing the stage and receiving a degree illustrates the hard work and sacrifices made to achieve the degree.