I remember a lot about the week I graduated with my Ph.D., but I don’t actually remember the moment itself. My family spent a few days in advance at Disneyland, trying to do all the things without melting under the July sun. And then we had just one day in Glendora, the town near campus that I lived at for two weeks every six months. There was a change of clothes in a bathroom on campus, shifting from a tank top and shorts into the black dress and heels I’d selected months before. I even remember the speech I gave about my research. It was just under 10 minutes long and unscripted. I’d created the PowerPoint slides but been too stubborn to write one more thing for the degree. I was a little amazed that I didn’t fall on my metaphorical or literal face that night.
All those things I remember, but not the portion of the even when I had my name called, step forward, and was hooded as Dr. Meg DuMez. It is just the photos that prove it happen. Well, and the gown and hood hanging in my spare closet.
What I remember from that ceremony is not the moments on the stage, but the faces of friends and family sitting with me. Individuals I had known my whole life or just a couple of years, and who were essential to that day happening. #NotThatKindOfDoctor would have never happened without them cheering me on.
Students graduating in spring and summer 2020 will have far different ceremonies and memories than I have. No part of that trip would be possible this year, including the weekend on the beach after all the ceremony was done.
Instead students are celebrating via videos online or just a few photographs when the diploma arrives in the mail. One of my former professors created a great set-up with his wife holding a photograph of the graduate in front of her face, and then he placed a hood over “their” head for the streaming video. Due to Covid-19, these graduates will be celebrating in ways that none of them imagined years ago when they started their academic journeys.
I just hope that they do celebrate. That like this decoration that blew into a neighboring field, their sparkle is evident no matter what else is around them. This moment matters now and will matter in the eyes of history.
So bring on the Zoom, the Insta-stories, the tiks, the toks, and whatever else graduates want to do. Bring on all the sparkle you can muster. You deserve it.