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To Walk, or Not to Walk? A question some seniors are asking with commencement approaching

<p>Spring commencement will return to the FedExForum in 2022, with each student in attendance having made the decision to walk.</p>
Spring commencement will return to the FedExForum in 2022, with each student in attendance having made the decision to walk.

The University of Memphis’ 2022 spring commencement ceremony is right around the corner. Around this time of year, graduating students must make the decision whether or not to participate in the commencement ceremony. Why sit there with hundreds of other graduating students for hours to receive a piece of paper regardless of attendance? Why miss it, you might come to regret it?

Graduating from college is a massive milestone, whether one decides to walk across the stage or not. It is purely a personal preference, and there are many factors that can go into deciding.

Some people view the graduation ceremony as an anchoring point for the transition from college student to graduate student or working professional, while others may not feel the need to walk to acknowledge their undergraduate years ending. Some people want one last goodbye, and some don’t really care.

And all decisions are okay! According to the University of Memphis Commencement Office, on average 85% of students who are eligible to participate in commencement do so. However, there are many reasons for one’s decision, including a sense of pride and accomplishment, family, and even indifference. 

When it came to former University of Memphis graduate Summer Sherman’s decision, she reflected on her family and background. Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in social work, she decided to walk and does not regret it. 

“It didn’t matter to me if I had to wear a mask or if we had to be 6 feet apart,” Sherman said. “I was going to walk regardless, because nobody in my family has gotten a degree in college. It was rewarding for me to walk at graduation. I felt proud and accomplished with graduating college as it was something my family couldn’t do when they were growing up.” 

The commencement ceremony holds immense value to some for their accomplishments, and it can also be that last needed goodbye for classmates who have been on their academic journey to professionalism together.

Graduating marks the close of a four or so year journey, with a new one on the horizon. When the time for a deicision came for senior Lillian Bird, she thought about her classmates and their collegiate experience together. 

“I have decided to walk this coming May because it will be one of the last times that I see my friends from my classes,” Bird said. “With graduation coming up, I have been filled with a variety of emotions. I have been feeling nostalgic and reflective, thinking of all the people that have come and gone from my life over these four years. Of course, I will stay in touch with some of them, but, for me, the ceremony is the physical closing point of this chapter.” 

Some, like Sherman and Bird, feel like the best way to validate their accomplishment is by walking across the stage and being recognized individually. However, there are always people who simply do not like crowds, have something else to do, or simply don’t care to attend. 

Michael Diep, who is also graduating from the University of Memphis in May, won’t be attending the commencement ceremony. He says he feels accomplished either way and not walking doesn’t take away the success he feels. 

“I am proud of myself for getting here, and I am satisfied with my college experience,” Diep explained. “Everyone keeps telling me I will regret not attending the graduation ceremony, but sitting there for hours with a lot of strangers is just not how I choose to recognize my success.” 

The decision to walk or not to walk rests solely on the shoulders of each student. Although the commencement ceremony is a meaningful recognition to some students, there are certainly other ways to feel validated – like through personal celebration and affirmation from family and friends.

Spring commencement will return to the FedExForum in 2022, with each student in attendance having made the decision to walk.

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