Commencement time always brings the hustle and bustle of cleaning, packing and heading home. But for seniors, this year’s commencement means graduation. It means a finish line, but also a starting line. It’s a time for reminiscing, rejoicing and relief. The checksheet on StudentCentral that looked so formidable the freshman year has been conquered.
Compared to the graduation ceremony at many American universities, commencement at BJU is unique. The event is formal, and there is no commencement speaker.
Instead, about 40 graduating seniors will give brief personal testimonies to an auditorium of family, friends and supporters.
Dr. Dan Smith, the University’s registrar, directs the commencement rehearsal each year. He said the purpose of the commencement service is to bring glory to God.
It is also formal to show respect to the many student speakers giving their testimonies as diplomas are handed out.
“[We] have the opportunity to [let] students say many different things from many different angles so that guests can see how the Lord is working in their lives,” Smith said.
Besides excited graduates, commencement also brings a flurry of expectant guests.
“At the rehearsal, I usually ask, ‘How many of you have relatives coming that aren’t saved?’” Smith said. “There are a lot of hands that go up.”
Though commencement is much the same from year to year, the graduating class is not. Smith provided some statistics.
A total of 913 students will graduate this year, 666 with their bachelor’s degrees. The total includes 484 women and 439 men.
Of those marching this May, 206 are not currently enrolled, meaning they finished their coursework in December.
The top five bachelor programs represented are nursing, pastoral studies, biology, humanities and accounting.
Additionally, 26 international countries will be represented at commencement. The top two are South Korea and Canada.
But seniors are more than just statistics. Many emotions accompany the end of four years of hard work.
Andrew Sebris, a senior business administration major, described his upcoming graduation as surreal. “I can’t believe I made it this far,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot of facts, but I’ve learned a whole lot more than just facts. I’ve learned more about myself, about the world and the people around me.”
Through his jobs with custodial and the usher crew, Sebris said he has learned how people work and how to relate to them.
He said the connection with good friends and the support he experienced through upfront, honest relationships have been the greatest memories his time at BJU has provided.
For Sebris, standing on the lawn after graduation with his family and being able to show them his diploma will be the best part of commencement day.
Sebris said the most challenging classes of his college career were Intermediate Accounting I and II, but his favorite was General Psychology. And his favorite Artist Series? “I liked The Tempest because of the trap door scenes,” he said.
Thomas Mills, a senior business major, finished an associate degree in residential construction management last year and will graduate with his bachelor’s degree next week. Mills is excited to walk across the FMA stage a second time. “I’m done with my education in a formal, structured sense,” he said. “It’s a big accomplishment to be done with learning on a full-time basis.”
Mills said as he has worked in construction over past summers, he has realized what a better understanding for his work his education provided year by year. “It’s cool to look back and see that your education was worth it,” he said.
Mills said BJU’s construction program and his job with Ferguson Builders here in town have been the most influential aspects of his college career.
“I get to work with a lot of different guys while learning, and every guy brings something different to the table,” he said. “I’ve had to learn how to cooperate and collaborate well with others.”
Thinking back over his four years, Mills said he spent most of his time in the carpentry shop. His most challenging classes were English 102 and Construction Planning & Scheduling, and his favorite class was Computer-Aided Drafting. His most memorable Artist Series was The Tempest, his first Artist Series with his fiancée.
What will be the most memorable part of commencement day? “Turning in my robe and picking up my diploma from the lobby of the FMA,” Mills said.