Commencement Inspires Volunteer Leader
Tina Nies, who serves on the University of Michigan-Flint Alumni Society Board, works to make each commencement experience memorable, honoring families and graduates who have committed their time and resources to earn a UM-Flint education. Nies, a volunteer coordinator of the Chancellor’s Commencement Corps, writes about why she volunteers at commencement and plans to continue her volunteer leadership for years to come.
When Brent Nickola, Alumni Relations Manager, asked me to welcome new graduates into the UM-Flint Alumni Society, it seemed like a no-brainer.
“Sure, I can help out,” I said, not realizing how that simple response would completely change my outlook on graduation traditions.
Prior to my first volunteer gig at a UM-Flint commencement, I had always felt indifferent to commencement. I just didn’t get why anyone would want to go through the formality of walking across a stage to receive a piece of paper that wasn’t even the real deal. My actual diploma would be mailed to me in about a month.
I don’t even remember my high school or university graduations. It would be easy these days to blame it on aging, but the truth is, at the time I just didn’t care. Immediately after high school I entered the university as a traditional student. By the time commencement came around four years later, I was already enrolled in grad school. Commencement was just a formality I attended to humor my parents, who desired – and insisted – I walk across the stage. After all, they had just paid for four years of tuition, provided room and board, and other support ─ they had earned it.
Now I see how much it meant to my parents. I see it on the faces of the parents, spouses, and friends of new graduates every time I volunteer at commencement. I feel it in their energy and excitement as I help them take family pictures, direct them to the best seats to watch their graduate, and give them tissues to wipe their tears.
I was a legacy student following in the footprints of my father, who graduated from UM-Flint in the late ‘70s. He earned his undergraduate degree as a working, married man with two young children, yet graduated with high honors! Seeing the jubilance of graduates, families and friends reminded me of the pride of my father’s parents, my mother and my family as they attended his ceremonies and witnessed him receiving his honor cords.
By December of 2010, when I stood on the commencement stage as the alumni speaker, my father had sadly already passed away. I finally felt the significance of the ceremony, and what it meant to my parents to watch me walk across the stage, with pride and excitement for what would lie ahead in my life.
I was touched to be on that stage, 21 years after my own graduation, sharing the pride felt by each of the families and students I was honored to induct as new alumni.
Now I continue to volunteer at every commencement I can. As the procession begins, I stand on the concourse and watch the smiling graduates march in and take their seats. It’s especially touching to see the faces of the non-traditional students, like my father, who sacrificed so much to meet their goals. It brings tears to my eyes every time. The only way the experience could get any better would be if my father was right there with me, watching our new fellow alumni walk across the stage.
Please join me as a volunteer at the next commencement on December 9th and experience commencement in a whole new way.
Tina Nies, B.B.A. ‘89
Tina’s experience serving as a volunteer in the Chancellor’s Commencements Corps has inspired her to take a leadership role in the program by coordinating the volunteers on commencement day. If you are interested in helping at the Dec. 9 commencement ceremony, please contact Tina at email@example.com There is also a Facebook event here.
Commencement Volunteer Details:
- Shift start times include 10:00 a.m., 12:00 noon, and 3:00.
- What will you do? Help families take photos, handout programs, hand out programs, collect tickets, sign up new alumni leaders, and more..