Graduation, then vacation: College gears up for grad ceremony

By Isabel Loos

At this time of year, students all over the country are counting down the days until graduation. The countdown is almost over for Whatcom’s class of 2015, as commencement is coming up on June 20.
In the past, the ceremony has been held in the Pavilion building on campus. However, due to the construction work on the Pavilion, the ceremony will be held at Civic Field this year.

Fred Abitia, who has spent 20 years at Whatcom, is the conference and event services coordinator and chair of the commencement committee.

He said “the challenge of finding the right fit” was his favorite part of planning graduation this year. It was a long process, and the commencement committee considered the Syre Auditorium and the Mt. Baker Theater as potential locations as well.

However, Abitia said that in the end, Civic seemed like the best fit based on its size and capacity. When graduation was held in the Pavilion, there wasn’t enough room for all of the graduates and the people who wanted to watch.

Graduates only got a limited number of tickets, and there had to be a video screening of the ceremony for people who couldn’t fit inside. This year, those issues will be eradicated because Civic Field is so big.

However, the Pavilion offered comfort in the rainy Pacific Northwest because the ceremony was held inside. This year, on Civic’s outdoor turf, it will be a bit different if it rains.

“We are really hoping for nice weather,” said Abitia, encouraging everyone else to do the same.

Before the ceremony, graduates will have the opportunity to hang out, take pictures, and enjoy some music and each other’s company at an event organized by Student Life. There will be fun activities to keep them busy and relaxed on their big day, said Abitia.

“We want to provide an atmosphere for the students that [shows] we’re saying congratulations,” said Abitia.

On Friday, June 19, graduates and their friends and family can celebrate at the campus open house. Campus tours, food, and fun will be offered for all from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. as another way to say congratulations. New students are also invited so they can get a feel for the campus and see what life as an Orca is like.

Graduates must remember to pick up their caps, gowns, chords, and stoles on Wednesday, June 10 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. in Syre. Monica Malcolm, who also works in conference and event services, said this is critical in order to acquire these items. She and the rest of the committee have been working hard to plan all of these events.

This time of year, there are also a number of events and ceremonies honoring graduates and their accomplishments. Phi Theta Kappa recognized their members on May 28, there will be a Running Start graduate reception on June 9 from 4-6 p.m. in Heiner, and the main honors and awards ceremony is on June 11 at 6:30 p.m. in Heiner, in addition to additional events honoring retirees, student leaders, nursing students, and more.

So far, 341 students have RSVP’d to walk at the ceremony. Although the class sizes the past few years have stayed about the same, there is usually a gap between the students that RSVP and the students that actually walk. However, this year it is expected that that won’t be the case and there will be more students walking because tickets are not required, which makes the ceremony more accessible for everyone.

Commencement is an exciting time of life, and the class of 2015 is looking forward to graduation more than anyone else.

”I am definitely excited to graduate,” said Taylor Bruntil, a graduating student planning to transfer to Western. He plans to major in general biology, and his goal is to eventually go to medical school. He said that the time he has spent as a running start student on a college campus will really help him adjust to life at a university.

“I loved Whatcom,” Bruntil said. “I liked that I could pick from lots of different classes and, in a way, choose what kind of things I wanted to learn about. I was able to form my schedule around sports and my interests which I loved.”

“I wouldn’t trade my time at Whatcom for anything,” said Karlee Heath, another graduating student. “I have enjoyed the freedom of picking classes, challenges of the curriculum, and the diversity of the student body.” Heath plans to attend UW to major in international studies, and said that her time at Whatcom has really helped her prepare for what is to come.

“[I have learned] how to take initiative to find and participate in the opportunities that have enriched my experience, such as honors seminars and my internship [in the Whatcom library].”
The students aren’t the only ones excited for graduation though; the organizers enjoy being a part of making it happen as well.

“I enjoy the day of,” said Malcolm, adding that it is fun to be a part of the pumped up energy that the students always have.

“I’m just hoping to see 300 plus smiling faces walking in, taking a seat, getting a diploma, and walking out still smiling. That’s my goal,” Abitia said.

Everyone is encouraged to use the hashtag #wccgrad15 on any commencement related photos that they take and post to social media such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

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