There’s no doubt it’s a day of hard work. It’s busy, it’s hectic – but it’s also a fantastic experience, as the whole place has such a buzz – full of people celebrating and their proud family and friends. And it will whet your appetite for your own degree ceremony!
It’s quite an early start – the student team, led by the Graduation Coordinator, have to start by setting out the stall so everyone can see all the lovely stuff on offer, and organising the spare stock so it’s easy to find. No sooner than you’ve finished doing that (or often, a bit before) – the first customers start arriving! Either the happy graduate themselves or one of their friends or family wanting to buy them something by which to remember their special day.
Selling items isn’t complicated – you tick the right boxes on a form and operate a card machine (don’t worry – full training is given!). And it’s lovely if you are able to exchange a few words with each person, and to hear a little about their OU experience.
It’s hectic at the peak of the selling period (usually in the hour before the ceremony) – all the volunteers are working as a team, finding stock items for each other, passing bags of goods over to the person taking payment, and also looking out for each other to make sure everyone gets a break. Warning… it’s very easy to get tempted to buy some of the OU goodies for yourself while you are on the stall!
Most people coming to the stall will be in their graduation robes – Batchelor’s and Master’s degrees, and a few Doctorates. You can visualise what those robes will look like on you when it’s your turn!
If you want to, you may have the chance to process – that means you get to be part of the “academic procession” which involves sitting up on the chairs on stage during the actual ceremony (best view in the house!). Not just you on your own, of course – there are lots of OU staff, including some local tutors, there, in a glorious array of different colours of academic dress from the universities they went to themselves.
There are also honorary graduates – people who have achieved something notable, which the university wishes to recognise. Past honorary graduates include David Attenborough, Betty Boothroyd and Benjamin Zephaniah. Personally I went all fan-girl when Jim Al-Khalili was presented for his honorary doctorate, and managed to get a photo with him!
So to sum up…. it’s hard work, it’s frantic at times, but it’s an absolutely amazing experience! Graduation volunteers keep coming back for more – if you get a chance to join them, jump at it!
AL Assembly representative
OU Branch UCU Executive member
Interested in volunteering at a graduation near you? Sign up on the Association website.