Instead of joining his classmates on the National Mall at Commencement Sunday morning, graduate Chris Kline was settling into his new apartment in Arizona. Kline decided to forego the Commencement ceremony and head back home to find a place to live before he begins work Monday.
Kline is one of hundreds of graduates in the 2006 class who chose not to partake in Sunday’s festivities. Each year, about 10 to 15 percent of seniors who are eligible to graduate choose not to attend Commencement, Associate Registrar for graduation Anthony Galarza said.
Despite missing Sunday’s ceremony and the School of Media and Public Affairs’ individual graduation ceremony last week, Kline is still officially a GW graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism. He will start his first post-college job as a breaking news reporter for a news Web site in Phoenix shared by the local NBC station and The Arizona Republic.
“While I would love to be at graduation and hear the speakers, it made much more sense to come back home and get settled,” Kline said. “I certainly see it as a momentous occasion but not an essential part of graduating.”
Kline added that his unique situation influenced his decision not to attend the ceremony. He graduated in three years and said most of his friends won’t be graduating until next year, so he didn’t feel too badly about skipping it.
“I feel more of a connection to the class of 2007 than to the class of 2006,” he added.
While Kline said throughout his years at GW his parents had always looked forward to watching him graduate, he said they support his decision.
“My parents just wanted me to be comfortable and happy,” he said. “They understood that I needed to find an apartment and get settled.”
Graduate Jessica Smith, a double major in creative writing and journalism, also decided to skip Sunday’s ceremony – but her reason was more personal. She felt her weekend was better spent visiting her mother in D.C. than attending Commencement.
“The ceremony is kind of hot and long, and I knew I wouldn’t get to spend time with my mom,” she said. “I just wanted to have quality time with her to thank her for everything she’s done for me.”
Unlike Kline, Smith did partake in her individual school ceremony and the honors luncheon last week.
Smith said she has a large extended family and knew she couldn’t invite them all to be with her on Sunday. So, instead of picking and choosing she decided to forego the ceremony and celebrate with them later.
“Next weekend my entire family is coming to my home to celebrate together,” she said. They will visit her in her hometown of St. Petersburg, Fla.
Smith said her mother was not upset about her decision to skip the Commencement ceremony.
“My mom just wanted to make sure that I was happy,” she said.
Galarza said that there isn’t just one reason that students choose not to walk.
“If you take fall and summer graduates into consideration also, the percentages make much more sense,” he said, adding that he determines the percentages by counting the number of students who indicated on their graduation application that they would not be attending. This year, he said, slightly more students came than expected.
While the speakers are a big part of the Commencement ceremony, Galarza said he does not believe that they influence a student’s decision about whether to attend the ceremony.
“If someone is more well-known, then students might be more interested in going, but I really don’t think it makes much of a difference,” he said.
While Smith gladly skipped former U.S. President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara Bush’s keynote Commencement address to spend time with family, Kline said he might get somewhat of a graduation ceremony after all.
He intends to return to the District next year as a guest for the ceremony so he can celebrate with the class of 2007.
He said “I will have my own graduation in my head.”