17 May 2012


I have another slight detour from the house-selling today, dear readers. I’m sorry. I’m sorry! It’s just that there are so many other things going on, and I need to tell you about them too! Plus, this one’s kind of a big deal: graduation!

But here’s why it’s only kind of a big deal: not a lot of biomedical Ph.D recipients attend the graduation ceremony. Many do, sure, but the bigger deal is the thesis defense (I told you about mine here). Once that’s out of the way, many skip the graduation ceremony. By that point, it’s just this unnecessary thing that requires traveling back to Nashville to attend (taking time off from the new post-graduate job, as most recent graduates don’t take a little sabbatical/foray into housewivery like I’m doing), plus renting or buying robes that cost more than my wedding dress, and being herded around like sheep for several hours in impossible-to-predict spring weather all for... what? You already have your Ph.D.

As for me, my degree was conferred in December, so I really had no reason to attend the annual graduation ceremony. But I decided to participate, as I’m still living here in Nashville, and my parents-in-law very generously purchased my robes, and let’s be honest, my friends were doing it. Not to mention the weather that day was perfectly gorgeous. No reason to skip this celebration!

So we made the most of it last Friday, with Mr. P taking the day off from teaching and both my parents and his parents coming into town, too. Here’s me with my mom:

And me with my mother-in-law:

See all the empty chairs around us? That’s because everyone else was over at a huge ceremony on one of the big main lawns at my university which includes all of that day’s graduates (get a sense of that ceremony here). Then the graduate school, medical school, law school, etc. split off into their own respective, smaller ceremonies. So I, uh... shhhh.... skipped the big ceremony. It was more trouble that it was worth with my family there, so we instead arrived on campus a little later and scored great seats (under the tent!) for the second ceremony.

Once we had seats, I went and checked in to figure out what the heck I was supposed to do and when. This would be my first time graduating without rehearsing it first, you see. So, I was very pleased to get a card with instructions upon checking in.

But there was no official start time for this second ceremony. My goal was just to get us there and hope it would start.... later. That plan worked, but it meant we waited. And waited and waited. This photo sums it up pretty well, actually.

Our moms are having a fun time, but our dads and everyone else... not loving the waiting. But in the end, they had good seats! Check out the rows and rows of people behind them after all the waiting:

So... yeah, sorry for all the pictures, but we had to do something during all that waiting.

Anyway, after a while, I finally went to line up and process in to the ceremony! Major props to Mr. P for scoring this shot with my fancy telephoto lens. I’m looking directly at the camera because he was super easy to spot, standing on his chair. Love that man, taking one for the team.

Then came the “hooding”, the part of the ceremony where your mentor officially places the Ph.D hood over your head. Unfortunately, my mentor called me a day before the ceremony to say he had to be with his ill mother and couldn’t be there, so another member of my department’s faculty hooded me instead.

I also got an empty diploma tube presented to me, because I already got my diploma this past spring. That was rather anticlimactic. But the hooding part was fun!

After the ceremony, we headed to the tent next door for the reception. I still seek out free food like a graduate student, and graduate students never pass up free food, especially when it looks like this:

There were also sandwiches and fruit and a minty tea. So, we had a little snack before we headed to the lunch:

It was during this snack time that I realized I’d forgotten how swanky private school is, while teaching at a public university this past semester. Don’t get me wrong; I went to public university for my undergraduate degree. And the quality of education at both public schools was great! The snacks, however, left something to be desired. Private school for the win. My new institution in St. Louis is also part of a private school, so Mr. P and I are already planning to attend the graduation exercises there... to fill our tummies.

After snack time, we headed over to my biomedical research program’s luncheon, but we ended up snapping photos along the way. First we grabbed this shot with my dear grad school buddy up on the stage:

Then we passed by my building that I went to virtually every day for six years:

And snapped another photo with my grad school friends with the bizarre babies-gleefully-climbing-on-a-DNA-double-helix statue, which has made us giggle since our first year:

And finally, here’s one with our friends who already live in St. Louis (look for them in future posts, eh?). They’re getting married this fall in Nashville, so we’ll have reason to return. But crazily enough, the guy in the photo will also be my new labmate in St. Louis! Funny how that worked out.

After photos it was time for lunch! Rather than try to make reservations at a restaurant (likely full of undergrads and their families), we ate at a luncheon on campus provided by my program. Tasty sandwiches and salads, cake, and oh yes, champagne:

Because, again, private school is all about the perks.

And finally, we wrapped up the day back at our house with a very special treat. You see, Mr. P’s mom is a school librarian in her city, where some of my cousins are her students. Their mom (also my cousin) has a catering business and cupcake shop, right next to the school. So, Mr. P’s mom often stops in my cousin’s cupcake shop after school for a treat. And for this special occasion... Mr. P’s mom ordered a cake from my cousin and brought it all the way to Nashville!

Not only was the cake delicious (no really, hire my cousin), she expertly crafted my school’s logo and wrote “Congratulations Dr. P” on it! The name-smudging was all me, and all digital, I should add. The cake was perfect... and the perfect end to a perfect day.

Whew! I’m sorry for the long post, but it was a fantastic event worth documenting. I’m so glad that my family came, because they made the day extra special. And I’m also glad that I didn’t skip it out of some too-cool-for-schoolness. It gave me a closure I didn’t know I wanted – a beautiful farewell to that stage in my life. So now, let the new adventure... commence!


Rachel said...

Congratulations, Sarah!

Janice said...

Again, just wanted to say Congratulations Dr. Petersen!

So glad you DID participate in the graduation events of that day. You are so right. It provides a great closure that many people do not realize is so important.

Can't wait to see what life adventures are in store next for you and Mr. P.!