My name is Andy. Nobody calls me “And”. Except very occasionally my sister. And almost never is anyone called a “gradu-and”. Except for an hour or two during a graduation ceremony.
Last week it was my turn, along with several colleagues on the PGCPHE programme and several hundred students at my institution. I was on the podium party and also robed up to receive my handshake and moment in the spotlight, with my SO in the crowd.
Reflection is rightly a big part of a PGCert, and this was another occasion for reflection. Sitting still for an hour or two, watching the students take their turn on stage and applauding each, your mind wanders. How many of these students did I teach research skills, and how did I help them in their studies (if I did)? Does my own experience on the course over two years help me empathise with students any better? How has my career, my life, changed since I was at my own undergraduate ceremony so many years ago?
In many ways, the ceremony has no meaning. You pass the course, you receive your certificate, whether you put on the robes and walk across the stage in front of your family or not. And yet, it does mark the end of a course of study. It does give recognition of effort, and marks the end of a portion of ones life dedicated wholly or partly to study and learning. It is also, for most of the students, a time to look forward – to the next stage in their education or to the start of their career. to what they will build on what they have learned and the qualification marking it. “And” is a conjunction, a joining word, and so too is graduation – that brief time of being an “-and”.