Laci M. Gerhart Barley

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University of Kansas 2013 Commencement

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Me and the Gerhart fam at the hooding ceremony
L to R: Denise (mom), Me, Rocky (nephew), Tai (sister), Bruce (father)

I defended my dissertation with honors at the end of March, but only this weekend officially graduated from KU with my PhD! The KU commencement has two parts. On Saturday, PhD candidates attend the formal hooding ceremony at KU’s Lied Center, where each candidate is recognized on stage, and hooded by their academic advisor. Masters students attend a separate hooding ceremony, and each academic department coordinates its own ceremony for bachelor degree recipients. This allows every student to have their name announced, and cross the stage to receive their recognition without the events taking 15 hours.

Anthony (husband) and I, in front of the campanile, prior to walking the hill.

Anthony (husband) and I, in front of the campanile, prior to walking the hill.

The second event, walking the hill, is held on Sunday and involves every student graduating from KU that year. This event is far less formal. Students decorate their mortarboards (some of the architecture and engineering students get rather ambitious in this regard) and carry bottles of champagne. We gather on the top of the hill, near KU’s iconic campanile. There is an urban legend that a KU student cannot walk through the campanile or he/she will not graduate. At this event, we all file through the campanile together, then walk down the hill towards the stadium. The sidewalks are lined with the friends and family of all the graduates. The graduates reach the stadium, then walk the length of the football field, which is lined with professors in full regalia. Graduates, friends, and family then gather in the stands for the formal commencement address and conferring of degrees. Or, graduates, friends, and family skip this part to begin the barbecue, beer, and lawn games portion of the graduation 🙂

This was my second KU commencement, having earned my bachelors degree from KU in 2006. While the hooding ceremony is meaningful in its own right, walking the hill really solidifies the sense of community between KU graduates, regardless of department or degree, and sets the tone for celebrating our collective achievements together. Rock chalk, Jayhawk – go KU!

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