Pomp and Unusual Circumstance

Thanks to some quick thinking, lots of teamwork and a heap of patience, ISE’s spring graduation ceremony went from near disaster to a most memorable event

Graduation Day. For many students, it’s the biggest day of their lives thus far. It promises memories of being a star in the eyes of their parents, professors and friends for having completed their degree. Graduation day also stirs conflicting emotions—feelings of excitement for being free from constant assignments mixed with an apprehension of becoming full-fledged adults expected to fend for themselves. Parents’ too experience a sense of pride for having raised an educated, capable young adult combined with the relief that “Bank of Mom and Dad” will soon close its doors. Not likely, but let them dream a little.

When the big day arrives, students have purchased their caps and gowns, secured their tickets and confirmed plans with family and friends, so all that’s left is to get to the venue on time. But what happens when it’s the venue that is the problem?

The ISE staff arrived at the Brooks Avenue Church of Christ to begin preparations for the day’s graduation ceremony. They had only been there a few minutes when they heard a loud crash outside and then the church fell into total darkness.

After finding their way out of the darkened building, they discovered the source of the disturbance to be an SUV that had struck a power pole, which lay on top of the vehicle as power lines snaked across the ground in front of the church. Fortunately, the driver was not injured and the power company repair crew arrived quickly. They informed everyone that the power was out for several square blocks and would not be restored until later that afternoon.

Watch the Spring Graduation Ceremony!

Suddenly deprived of a venue, the staff knew they had to find an alternative option for the graduation ceremony. “We knew we had to come up with a Plan B right away,” said Bill Irwin, ISE Accountant. Some staff members stayed at the church to help guide graduates and their families over to campus while the rest returned to the department to start contacting students and making arrangements for a reception within the ISE department. Dr. Anita Vila-Parrish, ISE Director of Undergraduate Programs, realized that the Court of the Carolinas, located next to the ISE Department, was available to host graduation. Combined with a cooperative warm and sunny day, the new venue was an optimal location for ISE’s ceremony.

While several staff members set up reception areas in the Department’s hallways and classrooms, others were outside running extension cords across the Court of the Carolinas to setup a portable public address system and a laptop to livestream the event. A special thanks to the church for not only letting ISE use their PA system, but coming along to help set it up.

While setup was taking place, families arrived and began sitting on and around the stairs at the top of the Court of the Carolinas while the graduates lined up out on the grass (see photo).

Dr. Paul Cohen, ISE Department Head, opened the program thanking everyone for their willingness to be flexible. During her commencement address, Dr. Vila-Parrish highlighted the importance of being able to adapt quickly and being flexible and how those skills would benefit the graduates in their professional and personal lives. “It was symbolic of our time together in college,” recalled Senior Todd Goldfarb. “We were all standing side-by-side working together to make something special happen.”

View the Spring Graduation Ceremony Photos!

What began as a chaotic event quickly settled into a casual, pleasant afternoon as parents, friends and family members watched their children receive their diplomas and pose for departmental photographs before adjourning to Daniels Hall for a reception.

“I would like to extend a thank you to ISE’s faculty and staff for pulling the event together at the last minute and making sure that it was a special experience for us,” said Goldfarb. “It certainly wasn’t an easy thing to do and it’s something I’ll never forget.”