Master Macca - the graduation
On March 16th I finally graduated from my Master of Computer Science degree at Melbourne Uni, so ending an eventful four years of part-time research. For some people, graduation ceremonies are not necessarily worth traveling vast distances to attend, and there is always the option of having the certificate mailed to you. For me, however, there was no chance I was going to miss this one. I often joke that my whole motivation for doing postgraduate study is to get at least a second (now a third) crack at a decent graduation photo. When I got my Bachelors degree in 1999, I was only days away from leaving the country for a year, and in all the rush, unfortunately did not get a chance to organise a suit. I also weighed about 20kg more than I do now. So it was clear as soon as I saw the photos, that I would need to give it another go (there is also the little known fact that Melbourne Uni, who follow the Oxford model for graduation ceremonies, do not allow graduands receiving Bachelors degrees to wear any kind of funny hat!).
So I had my suit dry cleaned, my annual shave brought forward a couple of months, and set about making sure this ceremony was one to be proud of. Aff, and Mum and Dad all came along. It was great.
What I didn't count on when I arrived at Union house and joined the queue of people waiting to get decked out in all the gear, was how many people I would recognise. As it turned out, this graduation ceremony was almost exclusively for Engineering graduates, of which computer science and software engineering students make up a considerable number. What was even more bazaar was that many of these people recognised me, and were coming up to say hi. I didn't know their names, but they knew mine ? Then I did some quick back of the envelope calculations and realised that most of these people were students of mine when I was lecturing back in 2004. This was confirmed when one person came up to me and said, "how could you have been my lecturer when you didn't even have a Masters?" Fair question I guess.
While the ceremony was never going to be as exciting and glitsy as the commonwealth games opening ceremony which happened the night before (though I would liked to have seen the academic procession come in on a flying tram), it wasn't a complete bore either. I think graduation ceremonies are designed to give the graduand one last challenge before stepping up to the next level of academic achievement. It's not just the patience of the graduand who is forced to sit and listen for an hour and a half that is being tested, but also the graduand's ability to coordinate the complex series of actions that must be executed, in front of 1000 people, when receiving their certificate. One needs to know when to walk, when to doff one's funny hat (if you have one), when to shake the Vice-Chancellors hand, and how to get back to one's seat without looking stupidly lost. Not everyone succeeded I must say. One guy attempted to walk back down the stairs he came up on - a big no no. You could almost see the Dean of Engineering wanting to take back the certificate and proclaim to the audience he was clearly not one of ours. Thankfully I executed the required actions successfully, and now have the certificate.
Of course, there is always room for improvement, and there is always the possibility of wearing an even sillier looking hat. Thankfully I get another crack at it in three years time (hopefully). I had better start practicing now.
Thanks to Mum, Dad and Aff for enduring the ceremony with me. A special mention should also go to the lady in the Union's Regalia Shop, who spent considerable time dressing me, and sticking pins into me.
I've put some more photos from the ceremony here.