Three years, four years, five or six, everyone experienced college at a different pace. No matter the length of time it took to get to this point, all graduating students have a commonality: this is it. This is the end to a student’s undergraduate, a student’s graduate, years.
Aside from the astounding speakers, the glistening black gowns and the multitude of caps decorated reflecting each graduate’s personality, what is commencement?
“...[A] celebration for all of the hard work and efforts we have put in along the way to get to this point. It signifies that all of those countless hours spent doing literature reviews, writing research papers and studying were worthwhile in the end,” said Michelle Fitzula. “Commencement is undoubtedly one of the most meaningful ceremonies of your life! The senior class should be proud of this hard earned accomplishment.”
Fitzula is a senior happily graduating this May after studying psychology on the pre-occupational therapy track.
The ceremony means to publicly applaud graduates’ achievements and recognize all their countless efforts to achieve goals that, at times, seemed unattainable. For a few hours on that specific May day, all the worrisome thoughts of what to do post-graduation are momentarily forgotten.
“Commencement means to me that one door is closing and another is opening,” commented Jordyn Bronsky, a psychology major who is graduating next month. “I have been looking forward to this day for four long years...[this] is a day I get to celebrate all of my hard work...Knowing that it is about a month away makes the 19 credit semesters and 8 a.m. classes worth it.”
This is one moment in time where a graduate is recognized as an individual in front of thousands. Everyone, applauding for both those they know and those they have yet to meet.
“I am also looking forward to sharing graduation day with my fellow classmates, closest friends and parents,” said Fitzula. “I really could not have done this without my parents' support, so I am really excited to be making them proud.”
Bronsky’s sentiments of this time in her life mimic Fitzula’s. Bronsky is the first of her siblings to earn a degree.
“I also get to see my friends and classmates celebrate this milestone as well,” Bronsky said. “I wouldn't have been able to accomplish what I did without the love and support from my family…[commencement] will be a very memorable experience for all of us.”
The electric spirit taking over everyone in Prudential Center, the ceremony filled with beaming smiles and genuine disbelief that a student’s time here is truly over. The essence of commencement is a potpourri of near-indistinguishable emotions; graduates all around are elated yet wistful.
But the highlight of the ceremony?
“Probably just like everyone else, I am most looking forward to hearing my name called and walking across that stage to earn my diploma,” Fitzula said.
Fitzula’s educational journey is not quite over just yet. She has the aspiration of being an occupational therapist, which requires her to earn a master’s degree for the field. Beginning in September, Fitzula will take some of her last steps towards this goal and start graduate school.
“I would just like to add that being a student at Kean University made for a wonderful undergraduate experience,” Fitzula said. “I had so many great professors who taught me so much in my four short years here.”
Bronsky is pursuing the social work profession. In the fall, she will switch gears from undergraduate to graduate as she enrolls in Stockton University’s social work graduate program.
“I enjoyed my time as a student-athlete at Kean University,” Bronsky said. “I would not trade this experience for the world. It has led me to many life-long friendships and memories I will cherish forever.”
As this year’s graduates walk across the stage in Prudential Center this May, surrounded by excitement radiating off co-graduates, do not forget to reserve a few seconds to reflect. Once a Kean Cougar, always a Kean Cougar.
“Kean has so many opportunities available and ways to get involved, and I encourage all underclassmen to make the most of their time here,” Fitzula said. “While it may feel like it is taking forever to get through semesters and time is passing so slow in the moment, when you look back on it all, you realize college happened and finished in the blink of an eye.”