Michael Crick encourages staff to volunteer at our celebration ceremonies

Michael Crick, University Council Member, volunteered his time to help at the March graduation celebrations and enjoyed it so much he has done so again this month.

In this message he encourages his fellow Kent staff to join the celebrations for our 2021 graduates in Rochester Cathedral on 11 May, and Canterbury Cathedral from 16 – 20 May. You can sign up online here or email congregations@kent.ac.uk.

I became a lay member of the council of the university last autumn, but during my first few months on the council it was difficult to get a proper feel for the university because of Covid restrictions.

Then I saw an appeal in the email news bulletin for volunteers to help out on graduation days.  “Why not?” I thought.  I’ll do one day in each of the four sessions in 2022, and it will be great way to meet recent students, their families, and members of staff, and to immerse myself in what the university is all about.

I did two ceremonies one day in Canterbury a couple of weeks ago.  I loved it.  I was kitted out in a blue and gold gown (strictly it should only have been blue only.)  I helped with laying the programmes on the seats and in guiding people to their places, but then I was asked to hand out the graduation certificates.

I was in my element.  As each new graduate walked past I gave them a big smile to catch their eye, and then handed over the certificate whispering a few words, trying to vary what I said each time, or making a joke of it, say, when someone got an especially loud cheer from their friends.  I was meeting people for only for 2-3 seconds, but it felt like making friends for life – almost 400 in one day!

There was also plenty of time both before and after the formal ceremony to speak to people about what they thought of the university and the course they’d studied.  I’m actually quite a shy person, but as a TV reporter I’ve learnt how to seize the moment and go up to strangers, introduce myself and chat to them (and the blue and gold gown helped on this occasion).  One trick outside on the lawn was to approach a group taking photos of themselves, and offer to take a photo of all of them altogether.  They almost always accepted – it broke the ice and the conversation flowed.

My abiding memory is the sheer joy of the occasion.  This was one of the exciting, memorable days of these new graduates’ lives, taking part in a great historic setting, the culmination of several years hard work.  Now for one day free of work and pressure, they were joined by their proud parents, families and friends.  It was great to take part in that, to share their happiness and sense of achievement, to watch young men and women setting off on their careers and new lives.

I can’t wait to do it again, and I strongly recommend to all university staff and also my fellow council members, that they volunteer for a ceremony or two.

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