Jul 09 2019

It’s Graduation next week, the culmination of years of study for our students. The ceremonies take months to organise and involve colleagues from across the College. We recently caught up with the Graduation team to learn more about the planning behind the ceremonies and what they find most rewarding about running such large-scale events. 

1. Could you tell us a bit about yourselves and your roles within the Graduation team?

Gurpreet Panesar: I am the Student Administration Manager for Exams and Graduation, and I manage the Graduation preparation and the ceremonies themselves. This involves everything from ensuring we have enough staff to help run the ceremonies, working with the Catering team to provide an enjoyable reception, to writing the scripts, and organising rehearsals and training staff. During the ceremonies themselves, I spend a lot of time running between venues to ensure that everything is in order and things are going smoothly.

Chloé Dowding:  I am the Student Administration Officer for Graduation and Invigilation, and I organise the Graduation Ceremonies from start to finish. This includes creating the graduation timetable, preparing the graduation ticket booking site and answering queries from students and staff in relation to the Graduation Ceremonies. I work closely with other departments, including Catering, Events, Alumni and Facilities to ensure the successful delivery of the ceremonies. During the ceremonies, I ensure that everything runs to schedule.

Sarah Smart: I am the Senior Student Administration Manager for assessments and graduation and I am responsible for the College’s exams, results, progression and graduation processes. For graduation my main focus is providing support for Gurpreet and Chloe if they need it – which isn’t often, as they do a fabulous job of managing and organising the ceremonies. I’m also responsible for the policy and the budget. During the Graduation Ceremonies themselves I am based in the Windsor Building supporting pre-ceremony activities such as registration and tickets sales and assisting students and guests. I also have the very important job of providing the coffee for Gurpreet and Chloe!

2. What do you find most rewarding about organising graduation week? 

Gurpreet: For the majority of the year, we are a non-student facing department, so graduation is our opportunity to get involved and ensure that the students and their guests have a great last experience at Royal Holloway. It is also satisfying for us as a team to see all the hard-work we have put in come into fruition.

Chloé: The most rewarding aspect of organising the Graduation Ceremonies is seeing it all come together.  It’s also wonderful to see all of the students celebrating their achievements with their family and friends.

Sarah: The most rewarding aspect of graduation for me, is seeing the students and their guests thoroughly enjoying themselves. An added bonus is getting to meet and work with colleagues from other areas of the College that you don’t normally have a lot of interaction with.

3. Why is graduation a special event for our students? 

It is the culmination of all their hard work over the past three or four years. Graduating from Royal Holloway is unique because of our fabulous Founder's Building. Graduation offers our students the opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments with their family, friends and academics, all of whom will have supported them throughout their time here.

4. How do colleagues from other teams across the College help to support you when preparing for graduation week? 

Due to the size of the ceremonies, we rely on support from our colleagues across the College to help run the ceremonies themselves. This could be as an usher in the Chapel or Picture Gallery, or a marshal directing guests and students in the North Quad or Founder's Building. This gives departmental staff the opportunity to see their students graduate, and the chance to celebrate with them at the reception.

5. What do each of you enjoy most about working at Royal Holloway and within the Graduation team?

Gurpreet: Working with friendly and supportive colleagues. Summer graduation is one of the busiest but also enjoyable weeks for me in the whole year, especially if the sun is shining!

Chloe: I enjoy how varied my role is and I am fortunate enough to work with a fantastic team. I also love working in such beautiful surroundings, walking past the Founder’s Building every day never gets old.

Sarah: I enjoy supporting students through their journey here at the College and the friendly and supportive nature of my colleagues across the College community. Within my own team, I am lucky enough to work with marvellous colleagues and I am extremely proud of the hard work we undertake to deliver the College’s Graduation Ceremonies. The commitment shown by the Assessments and Graduation team and also by the rest of Student Administration to ensure our students have a great day, is one of the things that makes my role so enjoyable.

6. If you could pick up a new skill in an instant what would it be? 

Gurpreet: To clone myself, especially during Graduation week!

Chloé: I have always wanted to play an instrument, but I do not have any hand-eye coordination whatsoever. I would love to play the piano or the drums.

Sarah: Scuba Diving – After visiting the Cayman Islands a few years ago, I’d love to go back and scuba dive there.