It is graduation time at Loyola University Chicago. This is my fourth May here, and the week of graduation is one of my favorite times. The campus is full of happy people who appear in waves during the times of the morning and afternoon graduations. All over campus there are graduates in caps and gowns, some carrying flowers. Family members and friends take pictures of the grad by the lake or other iconic locations around campus, including around Piper Hall, where the WLA is located. The aura is one of happiness, excitement, and fun. Even when grey skies and rain inevitably appear during at least one or two days, the mood still feels jubilant, albeit a bit soggy.
Related to my warm and fuzzy feelings this time of year are the graduation pictures from the WLA’s Mundelein College collection. I am sure graduations at Mundelein carried the same sense of accomplishment and happiness that I experience at Loyola. In my imagination, I see Mundelein’s campus and envision groups of happy graduates and family members everywhere.
Graduation is also an important time at the WLA as the archives is staffed by Graduate Assistants (GAs) from Loyola’s Public History Program. By the time the two year program is over, students (hopefully) have jobs in the public history field. It’s an exciting time for the graduating GA, although it can be stressful, depending on if there is a job to go to. I’m always happy to see a student succeed, graduate, and move on in a positive way.
The flip side is that graduation is a mixed bag for me. The WLA experiences turn-over every year as one or two GAs graduate. I come to know, depend on, and become fond of each GA. Over my years as an archivist, I’ve had many student staff members and am familiar with the cycle: they come, they work, they graduate, and they leave.
I confess, though, the cycle hasn’t become easier as the years roll on. I’m beginning to think just the opposite. The older I get, the more sentimental I become. Perhaps it’s because I have a daughter and the years fly by, giving me a heightened sense of time passing.
A friend of mine jokes that this is one of the times the chorus from the song “Sunrise, Sunset” from the musical Fiddler on the Roof floods the brain! She’s right. While I didn’t know the GAs as children, they are at the WLA for two formative years of their lives. I become close to students as I hear of their successes and struggles and I feel sad when they leave.
This year, two WLA GAs graduate on May 9th: Megan Bordewyk and Ellen Bushong. In addition to working hard at the WLA, Megan, a film buff, provided commentary for new movie releases while Ellen informed us about fashion history. Both are creative and intelligent, each with a wonderful sense of humor. I wish Megan and Ellen good luck and good fortune in the future. And I will miss them.
Nancy Freeman became Director of the WLA in spring, 2013. Prior to that, Nancy was an archivist and records manager at a wildlife research facility for the USDA in Colorado. Nancy has worked in the archival field since 1999. When not at the WLA, Nancy enjoys spending time with her family and knitting.
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