Throughout graduate school, I consistently heard from recent graduates that turning in the final copy of your dissertation—one of the most significant educational milestones—is one of the most anti-climactic. I always thought, “No, that’s not how it will be for me! How is that even possible?” And then I found myself in the basement of Rackham. I was turning in my dissertation and, much to my surprise, was underwhelmed with emotion. It felt comparable to turning in a small homework assignment and receiving a piece of paper with a “gold star” in return. As a graduate student, it is easy to lose sight of the big moments, and if you don’t intentionally make a point to celebrate them, no one will. So, I proceeded to take a picture of the piece of paper in front of Rackham to document this big milestone.
Documenting the day I turned in my dissertation!
Finishing your graduate degree is a big deal, and it should be celebrated. This is one reason why I participated in the graduate exercises last Friday. The emotions that surround commencement day couldn’t have been more different than how I felt submitting my dissertation in the basement. As the other graduate students and I walked into Hill Auditorium, we were met with proud smiles from the faculty, friends, and family members that supported us in our graduate school journey.
Excited graduate students walking into Hill Auditorium for graduation.
I sat down and took it all in. The combination of the regalia, the ceremonial music, reflecting on what it took to get to this moment, and being surrounded by my friends and family made my eyes fill with tears. I thought of every time I didn’t think I would make it to graduation, and it made the experience that much more significant. As I watched the other graduates cross the stage, I thought about the commitment, persistence, struggle, and sacrifice that brought each of them to the stage to receive their degree. It was inspiring to graduate next to a diverse group of students doing great things for the world.
As a graduate student, it is easy to lose sight of your accomplishments, and we don’t typically celebrate them. If only once in your graduate career, I encourage you to celebrate your biggest accomplishment, and participate in Rackham graduate exercises when your time comes!
My husband graduated last year with his Ph.D. in Pharmacology. This year, it was my turn. Go Blue!