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Graduation unsung hero: Stuart Stanley

Hear from colleagues who are taking time to contribute to graduation week, find out about their role and what they enjoy about it. It's a chance to see some of the work that goes on behind the scenes to help make graduation week a success.

img_0429.jpgBehind the scenes with...

Stuart Stanley, Project Manager, Academic Office
Role at graduation: Degree Ceremonies Deputy

My usual job involves…
I’m actually currently employed to help with and review the Graduation Ceremonies. I used to have Graduation as part of my role when I worked in the Academic Registrar’s Office, and I’ve been brought back in this year to cover the Winter Ceremonies and to review some of the logistical aspects of the ceremonies to help them run smoother in future. I’ve had a number of roles around the University previously, both in University House and in Academic Departments.

But during graduation week I…
Graduation isn’t just a week for us. There’s a core team of around six people which assemble for approximately one month before each set of ceremonies. We’re responsible for organising all the logistical aspects (tickets, certificates, seating plans… even down to the list of names to be read out on stage). We all move from our normal roles to work on Degree Congregation.
During the actual week of the ceremonies, I am one of two Degree Ceremony Deputies – we are essentially there to make sure that everything runs smoothly, that all of the volunteer teams have everything the need to complete their roles, and to resolve any and all issues that crop up. There’s a lot of running around behind the scenes to make sure everything goes smoothly.

I really enjoy being involved with…
such a positive and celebratory event for students. Graduation Ceremonies are really the culminations of several years hard work and a celebration for students with their friends and family. There’s always a great atmosphere.

Graduation week is unique because...
of the scale of the event. It’s probably the biggest event on campus and a truly collaborative effort. The number of departments involved in making it a success is massive, and it’s all achieved very quickly when you consider how many students are involved.

If I could change one thing about graduation it would be…
how long it sometimes takes to check who is in the hall. Immediately before each ceremony we have to make sure that the ‘Orders of the day’ (the list of all the names to be read out and ‘stage directions’) matches who has actually turned up. We have to double check and then cross out anyone who hasn’t turned up. If there are a lot of people who haven’t arrived, or people have swapped seats this can sometimes take a long time – leaving everyone in the hall waiting for the ceremony to start.
I’ve been given the opportunity this year though to spend a bit more time on Degree Congregation with a view of making some recommendations about how we can improve some of our processes – this is hopefully one of the ones we’ll be able to improve!

I’ve only just realised that…
following the Winter Degree Congregation, I will have been involved in organising ceremonies that fifteen-thousand students have attended!

Not everyone knows that…
we provide suggested pronunciations to the Presenter who reads the students names out as they collect their degrees. We ask students to provide us with a pronunciation of their name if they are worried it won’t be read out correctly.

What would you say to colleagues considering getting involved?
Absolutely do it. Running the ceremonies is only possible because of the number of people that we get volunteering (for example there are almost 120 staff volunteers for the ceremonies this week). From a very personal point of view, when I first joined the University I found it a great way to meet colleagues from different departments and get to know the University a lot better.

In three words, what invaluable tip or advice would you give graduands?
Just enjoy it – it’s the culmination of your hard work from your time at Warwick!