Department of English, College of LAS, University of Illinois

Illinois Department of English Blog


Welcome to the Department of English blog.

My name is Vicki Mahaffey and I took over as
head of the department on July 1, 2016. I'll be using this site to post updates and information of interest to our faculty, students, and alumni,
along with reflections about our discipline(s) in particular and the humanities in general. As anyone who has ever worked or studied here knows, the Department of English is a vibrant place. If you have something you'd like to see posted here, or if you want to contact me about the content of this blog, drop me an email at

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Winter Convocation

This morning, I attended the Winter Convocation held by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Hardboiled though I may be in other regards, I'm a total softie for these events--I always enjoy them and find them moving. First, the faculty attendees gather in a staging area, adjusting their robes and hoods and trying to stand as straight as possible so as to keep their mortarboards from tipping off of their heads. We all feel a little silly, I suppose, with our tassels dangling in our peripheral vision and dolled-up like medieval scholars in our robes and hoods, but one sees friends from other departments and the dress-up aspect actually ensures that everyone is amused and in good spirits. Then, we process in and see the families in the audience, and the students enter, nervous and grinning and proud all at once, and the ceremony begins.

One by one students, in their robes, come up onto the stage, hear their name read out over the PA system, and walk across the stage to shake the dean's hand. At first, everyone is formal, but then--usually before we're done with the A's--somebody breaks the ice and shouts out when their brother or sister or partner or friend is called. "Wooo hoo," someone calls. Then "you did it, sweetie!" or "hallelujah!" and the lid is off. As the ceremony progresses, audience members get more and more demonstrative in support of their loved ones. "Sweet Pea!" someone shouts from the balcony." Another yells "That's my wife!" Everyone laughs, everyone settles in.

For me at least, the essence of the graduation ceremony lies in this unusual combination of formality and raucousness. Graduation is a major achievement and a major life threshold, and it should be marked both with formal dignity and wild celebration! By the end, I want to shout out too--it is great to feel the pride that so many families take in the achievements of our students, and as a faculty member you can't help but feel pride too in being part of the whole endeavor.

Congratulations to all of our newly-minted graduates! Wooo hoo!

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