On one of my first days at Rider, I pictured what my commencement would look like. I knew it was Rider’s tradition to graduate on campus, so I imagined the whole scenario spread across the green grass, bathed in bright sunlight. I carried this vision with me for four years, a picturesque goal that I was working toward. However, I was forced to let go of this vision last year when it was announced that commencement would, for the first time, be held at the Sun Bank Center in Trenton.
I was expecting to be angry on May 12 when I would have no choice but to break tradition and graduate away from the campus I grew to love. However, as I walked out into the arena with the rest of my classmates, I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t sad or wistful. I wasn’t even disappointed. I was still proud.
As a member of the first class to graduate off campus, I can say that commencement wasn’t any less of a thrilling, prideful event, even if it wasn’t at Rider.
I know some of my classmates were upset that we would be the first class to break Rider tradition. However, looking back at our unconventional commencement, I believe that starting this new Rider custom might not be a bad thing. Personally, I felt that being in an arena made commencement feel much more official and added a bit of grandeur to the ceremony. It truly felt like an important moment in my life.
In addition, the setting of the Sun Bank Center allowed commencement to feel more exhilarating and emotional. One of my favorite moments was when the entire class processed into the arena and I truly saw the venue for the first time. There were so many people in seats that wrapped around the entire arena, all staring down and cheering for my classmates and me. As we walked out, I was overwhelmed by the thunderous applause that surrounded us and by seeing our faces on a big screen that hung overhead.
Plus, with the way that the seats were lined all around us, I could even look up at my mother as they called my name and as I walked across the stage. In that moment especially, I didn’t feel like I was missing anything by being in an arena.
Graduating away from campus also helped calm many commencement-related anxieties. I didn’t have to worry about an outdoor ceremony being moved inside at the last minute, so I didn’t have to worry about telling family members that they suddenly couldn’t watch me graduate. Since we were in an arena, I was also able to find exactly where my family was seated in the stands, so I knew exactly where and how to pose for pictures.
More than anything, commencement is supposed to be a ceremony to commemorate our achievements. It’s not defined by location or tradition. It’s defined by our accomplishments and progress, and the pride that our community takes in that. While I didn’t get the ceremony that I imagined four years ago, I got something that was equally, if not more, memorable and marvelous.
— Samantha Sawh
Class of ’17
Printed in the 9/06/17 issue.