Most students look forward to graduation, a time to celebrate the accomplishment of successfully finishing college. However, the end of their time at Messiah looks a little different for students who finish their degree midway through the academic year, as an increasing number of students are graduating in December rather than May. In 2016, 153 students graduated in December.
“If you look at the landscape of higher ed., people are trying to graduate with as little debt as possible,” Director of Alumni and Parent Relations Jay McClymont says. “Students are coming into college with enough AP credits that make it possible for them to graduate in three and a half years.”
The Alumni Office organizes a reception for those graduating in December to “recognize that they are leaving, say goodbye, educate them about May commencement, and collect updated contact info,” McClymont says. The drastic increase in December graduates over the past 15 years has made it necessary for the event to change.
According to McClymont, 15 years ago, approximately 25 students would graduate each December. At that time, the Alumni Office would hold a reception with desserts and coffee in the fireplace alcove on the second floor of the Union. It was a small event—graduating students’ advisors or on-campus work supervisors could attend and the President or Campus Pastor might stop by to congratulate the graduates. Eventually, the number of graduates and people attending the event outgrew the space.
Seven years ago, the event was moved to Howe Atrium in Boyer and graduating students were invited to bring a friend. Students also asked to bring both of their parents and were permitted to do so. However, problems arose when parents would drive for hours to Messiah and be confused about why they had come to a low-key event that was “never designed to be a public ceremony,” McClymont says.
This year the Alumni Office is holding a luncheon with President Phipps for December graduates on December 7 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in Hostetter Chapel. The event is informal and will not have a program. The intent is to provide students with a time of fellowship with other December graduates, faculty, and President Phipps before they leave campus. It is not intended for parents or other family members to attend.
The hope is that students who graduate in December will come back in May for Senior Week, Baccalaureate, and Commencement. Of course, students are encouraged to bring parents and family members to those events, as they are public ceremonies. More commencement information will be provided throughout the spring semester.