To walk or not to walk

Commencement can be an overwhelming and exciting time. There are parties, dinners and celebrations across the city as students finish their degree programs. All of it leads to the official ceremony in which students don their cap and gown and walk across the stage at the Alaska Airlines Center.

At least, some of them do.

Many factors can play into whether or not a student chooses to walk. For some Alaskans, unique situations can force them to forego walking at commencement, even when they would like to.

Elizabeth Savage, who graduated with a degree in journalism and digital media in the fall of 2016, found herself unable to walk after a last-minute military move. She said she was devastated when she had to derail her plans.

“I was set to graduate with several honors and I got my cap, gown and cords,” Savage said. “I just went to school for seven years and had this anti-climactic moment when I picked up my degree from the University Center. I’m glad I finished my bachelor’s and I’m proud, but I had a picture of the whole graduation experience and mine just didn’t measure up.”

For others, though, the walk across the stage is simpler. David Clark, a sociology major who will walk at the spring 2018 commencement, says he chose to walk as a way to finish off his hard work at UAA.

“I personally like the idea of the closure it will give,” Clark said. “For me, it’s a way to end an era. Walking, to me, means that I’ve put all the trials and tribulations of the last five years behind me and I’m taking my successes and triumphs and moving forward.”

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For other students, family and timing play into their decision. When legal studies major Ana Azpilcueta found herself a few credits shy of getting her degree, she had to take family members’ international travel into account. She will be walking in the spring 2018 commencement.

“I don’t really want to walk because I still have two more classes to take next fall. But since my grandma was visiting from Mexico I figured I would walk for her to see me,” Azpilcueta said.

Antionette Street, an English literature student, said that her family was also part of the reason she chose to walk.

“Knowing my family has the opportunity to see all my hard work come together for that singular moment is really nice.” Street said. “When I decided to go to college I knew I would walk. I am too cute not to be splashed across television.”

When asked what advice she would give to students who were on the fence about walking, Street said that people should decide whether commencement was worthwhile to them.

“Go with your gut. If your initial reaction to sitting in a crowd of hundreds for four hours isn’t ‘that’s tolerable,’ then maybe walking isn’t for you. A lot of people endure it for their family, but that’s what grad photos and graduation parties are also for,” Street said.

The spring 2018 commencement will be held Sunday, May 6 from 1 – 3:30 p.m. at the Alaska Airlines Center. Guest tickets are required for entry.