A day in the life of a Graduation Volunteer

Lou, VP Engagement and regular Graduation Volunteer shares the typical day at a Graduation Ceremony

The OU Students Association runs a merchandise stall at the OU Graduations and throughout the year seeks student volunteers to co-ordinate or support the running of the stall.

It’s a fabulous volunteer opportunity that allows you to gain retail skills, meet other students and staff and, if you choose, maybe even experience a ceremony as part of the academic procession and clap for our new graduates from the stage.

Graduation Volunteering has to be my favourite volunteer role. Sharing the atmosphere of #OUFamily celebration, hearing the journeys and achievements and helping make their day a memorable one through sale of our fabulous mementos that give back to future students by raising money for OUSET is incredible. A fabulous bonus is you often get to share the experience with fellow students and Association staff.

Sounds incredible right?

A Day in the Life of a Barbican Graduation Volunteer

I am up bright and early and on the 06:00 train to make it to the Barbican for 07:00 unboxing with time to grab a coffee on the way. (As a volunteer we can arrive/leave with some flexibility so don’t be put off by the early start!)

Mr Owl arrives at the Barbican Centre in London

On arrival we unpack the small mountain of warehouse boxes of stock including the much anticipated Graduation T-Shirts! As Graduation Coordinator you get to decide the layout of the stall and can be creative in laying out the merchandise in an enticing way.

A photo looking down the OU Students Association Stall after set up

After set up there is usually time for a small breather, or chance to have a look around the space to get to know where Registration, Gowns, Photography and the toilets are that day – graduates and their guests are grateful of your help with locating all of these things and we are always happy to help!

As the morning ceremony starts to arrive there is often a small rush at the stall but as volunteers we usually work in pairs at busy ceremonies with one volunteer taking the payment and the other collecting/packing the items. There’s usually time to find out what they are graduating in or hear how they have enjoyed their studies. There are also lots of proud families purchasing gifts for their grads (my favourites are the ones who sneak up just before the ceremony starts to buy a surprise gift for later!

Between ceremonies there is usually time for volunteers to take breaks and rest a while before the afternoon ceremony. Today, I’m having an early break as I am needed down in gowning!

One of the perks of Graduation Volunteering is being able to join the academic procession and join the staff on the stage to applaud our new graduates when they cross. This is optional for volunteers but highly recommended. A gown will be hired for you to take part in this. If like me, you have previously graduated a higher award elsewhere they can even hire that for you too! 

Lou in University of Derby PGCE robes ready for procession.Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a photo/video while in the procession but if you want to see what it’s like to be involved you can see this right at the start of the ceremony on YouTube.

After this it was a rush back to the stall for me to help with the last few sales of the day and to pack up the boxes with our remianing stock.

Graduation Volunteering is an inspiring experience – what better to beat the TMA blues than to watch your fellow students cross their finish line? OU Graduations are a truly magical day and I am blessed to have been involved with 6 days/12 ceremonies of them now.

Fingers crossed I’ll be back at the Barbican in a few weeks time – hopefully I’ll meet a few of you as volunteers or as grads popping by the stall!

Inspired to give it a go? Check our current volunteer opportunities here

Or after your own little Mr Owl? Stop by our online shop!

Mr Owl crosses the Barbican Graduation stage

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Lou Robinson

BSc (Hons) Open Degree 2020 PGCE Primary (School Direct) Student 2020/21 Aspiring Primary School Teacher with a keen interest in STEAM and Outdoor Learning.


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