Seniors continue yearly traditions as spring graduation approaches

As seniors prepare to enter a struggling economy, worries of buying a house, attending grad school and paying  off their  student loans are temporarily suppressed by traditions like the senior etiquette dinner, Robing Ceremony and Midnight March.

These events give seniors a chance to reflect on their years at the university and symbolically pass on their student leadership to the juniors.

Seniors start the festivities off with the etiquette dinner.

The meal is intended to prepare graduating students for the business world and refresh manners that are sometimes forgotten in the years spent as a college student.

Director of UMHB Career Services, Don Owens, takes an active part in planning the affair.

“The purpose of the president’s senior etiquette dinner program is a fun evening for graduating seniors to have exposure and refresh basic dinner etiquette skills with traditional business manners,” he said.

In a competitive job market, such skills could make a difference in a potential employer’s first impression.

“We only get one opportunity to make a good first impression, or so called grand introduction, and serious candidates must stand out as the best talent for the position from all standpoints,” Owens said.

The dinner is free to students  because of sponsorship by Dr. & Mrs. Jerry Bawcom, the Students Affairs Di-vision, Career Services and Enterprise Rent-A-Car. The event has been held 10 times since 2001, with only one fall semester occurrence last Oct.

This year a record 110 seniors attended the dinner.

Days afterward, graduating students participate in the Robing Ceremony and Midnight March, long-held traditions at UMHB.

The Robing Ceremony is a symbolic departure of seniors from the campus and the passing on of leadership to the junior class. The graduating class passes regalia to the soon-to-be seniors.

After the ceremony, seniors march around the senior plaza with lit candles, singing the senior/alumni song, “Up with the Purple.” Those close to the graduating students also stand in the quad with unlit candles, waiting for seniors to pass the flame to them.

Director of Alumni Relations, Rebecca O’Banion, noted the significance of these traditions to everyone on campus.

“The Robing Ceremony, which began in as early as 1902, is held each spring,” she said, “During the service, seniors place their academic regalia on juniors, symbolizing the passing of student leadership. After a junior has been robed, they are officially allowed for the first time to sing the alumni/senior song, ‘Up with the Purple.’ Initially, this event was held as a part of graduation weekend.”

Midnight March is important to the loved ones of graduating seniors.

“Seniors give candles to special friends throughout the week and invite them to participate in Midnight March.  This is a special time for students, faculty, staff and families to acknowledge the ending of the leadership of one group of students and their passing the mantel to the underclassmen,” O’Banion said.

Junior history major, Teaven Barnum, expressed excitement about being a part of senior traditions next year.

“I got robed. To be able to be part of that tradition was really cool, and it makes everything about this university worthwhile,” he said. “I am excited to participate as a senior next year because it will solidify my time here at the university.”

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