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Commencement policy changes

By Hallie Jordan     4/7/11 7:00pm

Starting with this year's graduating class, seniors who have not yet completed their degree requirements may walk with their class at graduation.

This policy allows seniors who will only need one more semester to finish degree requirements to participate in commencement.

"Commencement is a celebration, and it will make it more meaningful for students to walk with the class they matriculated with," Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson said.

To take part in this plan, students must fill out a form that will be available on the Dean's website.

Students will have to state a reason and get signatures from Academic Advising, the Registrar's Office and their major advisor.

"There is always a set of students who have a plan, but something happens, and [they] otherwise would not be able to participate," Hutchinson said.

The policy suggests several reasons a student may not be able to graduate.

These include absence for internships, external academic experiences, civic engagement projects, illness or family emergency, degree programs that require more than 120 hours of credit and varsity athletic participation.

Most reasons for not being finished with a degree should be approved, except for students who are not in good academic standing or had to leave for a period of time because of an honor code violation.

The idea for this policy was started by Hanszen College senior Anastasia Alex, who approached Dean Hutchinson asking if the current policy, which said no one can walk until they have completed their degree, could change.

Alex took a semester off during her sophomore year to work at an internship in Cleveland.

"I was encouraged to take the internship because it would boost my career. [I was] aware [that] because there are so many credits, it would have been impossible to take all the classes within three-and-a-half years."

After spending almost all four years with her peers, Alex now feels that she should be able to celebrate her hard work with her friends instead of a class she doesn't know.

"This year I was in senior design and was a senior interviewer, and I stayed close with the senior class I matriculated with," Alex said. "I was overcome with this sad feeling that I wouldn't be able to celebrate with them."

Hutchinson asked her to write a proposal, which eventually he rewrote into the new policy.

"I think she asked the question at the right time to the right people with sympathetic ears," Associate Dean of Undergraduates Matt Taylor said.

Often we have had masters advocating for this policy, but the administration has always said no, Taylor said.

Response to the new policy has been very positive from the president, deans, Faculty Senate and the Student Association, Hutchinson said.

The form is due by April 15 for this year, but Dean Hutchinson said he will be lenient about the date for this graduation in case the message has not gotten out to everyone yet. He said he anticipates about two to three dozen people asking to walk with their class each year.

All requests will be reviewed by a committee appointed by the Dean of Undergraduates that will make recommendations, but the dean will make the final decision for each student, according to the policy.

"We really want people to finish, and even if there is a hiccup, we still want people to graduate and feel good," Taylor said. "I think not [being] able to graduate with your class can really leave a mark on someone."

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