SUNY Oswego Graduation – A Glimpse Behind The Scenes

By Nick Wojton, Contributing Writer
OSWEGO, NY – Each May, SUNY Oswego seniors mark a day on their calendar that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives: graduation.

But they’re not the only ones with the date circled.

Every commencement celebration is on the calendar of the numerous people behind the scenes, sometimes months before, who help make the day happen.

The College Bookstore at SUNY Oswego works on graduation preparation by making sure all of the graduates have the correct cap and gowns.

According to Director of the College Bookstore, Susan Raby, preparations for this Saturday’s graduation ceremonies began as far back as February with the ordering of the graduation attire.

“We order a range of sizes and we keep records so we can try to have the correct sizes,” Raby said.

Most graduates take advantage of the College Bookstore’s “Grad Finale” event in the Hewitt Union on campus to purchase their cap and gown.

But Raby says some wait until afterward as students can purchase them at anytime from the College Bookstore.

This year’s Grad Finale was held on April 16 and along with cap and gown purchase, students have their first chance to order diploma frames, personalized graduation announcements and commencement tickets.

As the graduation creeps closer, the Senior Class Planning Committee, consisting of graduating seniors, sets up a week’s worth of events which run from May 6-10.

Senior class coordinator Oluwaseyi Lamidi plans all of the logistics for seniors and creates and implements the ideas for Senior Week.

This year’s senior week included a senior/faculty staff luncheon on Monday in Hewitt Union, Rollerblading into the future on Tuesday in Hewitt, discount night at Rudy’s and Bev’s on Wednesday, all white senior soiree at The Shed on Thursday and a senior lunch barbeque in the Academic Quad on Friday.

For the commencement, Lamidi is a messenger for the school, too.

“I help spread the word out to seniors, reminding them to register and keeping them informed on the ceremonies,” Lamidi explained.

Due to the large number of graduates, the school holds two separate ceremonies.

Graduates of the School of Business and School of Education will participate in the morning ceremony, starting at 9 a.m. in the Campus Center Arena. The afternoon commencement, beginning at 1:30 p.m., will honor graduates of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the School of Communication, Media and the Arts.

Between the dual ceremonies, more than 1,650 students, including more than 1,400 undergraduates, are eligible to take part.

Oswego Dean of Graduate Studies and Research David W. King will address the 9 a.m. ceremony and Dr. Leslie Kohman, medical director of the new Upstate Cancer Center in Syracuse, will be the featured speaker at the 1:30 p.m. graduation.

Associate Director of Public Affairs Tim Nekritz is among the 22 staff members of the Public Ceremonies Committee that meet before each commencement. The committee works on details including set up and recruiting volunteers.

“Public Ceremonies is a committee full of dedicated people whose goal is to make sure that our graduates and their friends and families enjoy this very special day,” Nekritz said. “Their joy is so beautiful and infectious. But really seeing every graduate’s face light up, and the pride that they and their family and friends share really makes everything we do well worth the effort.”

The volunteer work for the ceremony is crucial to its operation; volunteer jobs include ushering, services for visitors with disabilities, and overall program flow Nekritz said.

The Campus Center Arena setup begins the night before commencement and is completed in a few hours.

Crews from the facilities department at SUNY Oswego work on the task with more than 50 working on the process which includes custodial and rink crew working together to set up the arena along with catering, electrical support, building trades (paint touch ups, hanging banners, etc), plumbing maintenance, electrical maintenance, HVAC maintenance, grounds staff cleaning and prepping the exterior and additional facilities staff handling other items as requested.

Between the ceremonies, the staff and volunteers quickly straighten up the arena.

Following the ceremonies, everything gets packed up the night of graduation.

Volunteers and the audience often include faculty members who enjoy watching students they’ve taught walk across the stage.

Arvind Diddi, a journalism professor, attends graduation each year to see his students finish off their college careers.

“For teachers and professors it’s very nice and a happy moment to see the students graduate,” Diddi said. “It’s not just the ending, but the beginning for the students.”

Following the each commencement, families can meet at Hewitt Union for refreshments. For those unable to attend the ceremony and who would like to watch, a live webcast will stream from a link on the home page, with a live broadcast airing on Time Warner Cable channel 96.

The ceremony will re-air on Time Warner Cable locally, although those dates are not yet available.