235th commencement ceremony. Tonight's ceremony was for PhD and Master's students, while tomorrow's ceremony will be for the undergraduate students. The ceremony was held inside the Alexander Memorial Coliseum on the campus of Georgia Tech.
Tonight, I was both an observer and a participant. Allow me to explain.
I was an observer because I didn't walk. Or rather, I wasn't a participant because I didn't walk. Being an observer is a choice, and if it wasn't for how I rationalized things throughout the day, I might have been neither an observer nor a participant...
Tonight, I chose to sit in the stands and observe graduation that way. It was a very tough decision to make, but I made it for a few reasons. First, I graduated from Georgia Tech with a Bachelor's degree in May of 2006. I attended that ceremony (held at the Georgia Dome). In fact, one of the first images on Erudite Expressions was an image from the 2006 Commencement. I wouldn't have missed my undergraduate commencement for the world. I felt so proud of my degree back then, as I do today. Tonight was a different story: perhaps I felt like I've done it before, so I wanted to experience it from another point of view.
Second, the circumstances were a bit different this time. In 2006, I was graduating with the highest honors and was going to attend California Institute of Technology that coming fall. This time, I am graduating (Master's degree in Quantitative and Computational Finance; learn more about the program here) with great marks, but in my mind my graduation
I mentioned that I might not have been even an observer tonight. But here's what happened during the course of the day. I was thinking that if I didn't attend the ceremony (whether as a participant or an observer), I would regret it sometime in the future. So if I didn't walk, I could at least listen. And what else? If you think about it for moment, you'll understand. I was also a witness with my camera. I realized that I could capture the event from the stands, and this act would be very much in line with what I do, day in and day out: photograph the world around me. I would be able to photograph President Peterson's address to the students (pictured in this entry), Dr. Regina Dugan's (president of DARPA) distinguished address, and my fellow classmates walking down the aisle to shake President Peterson's hand. And I did exactly that.
Tonight, I captured over 200 images, most of which I am going to share with my classmates (I tried to photograph each graduate as he/she crossed the stage to pick up his/her diploma). I will upload these photos to a separate Flickr account. Perhaps it will make someone happy, who knows. The question I ask myself: if I didn't capture these photos, who would have? Sure, there were professional photographers out there, but they were methodical in their approach. Snap. Move along now. Snap. Move along now. Snap. What stories are they telling? You tell me.
I do know that it felt wonderfully liberating sitting in the stands, observing the graduation unfold in front of me. Was there a pang of desire to walk across that stage? Maybe for an instant. But then, I only had to take a look around, look through my viewfinder, and conclude: this is where I'd rather be.
Thank you for reading. If you participated in this graduation and are wondering whether I have your picture, please contact me. I may also update this post in the next day or two with more details. I've added this post to my Georgia Tech gallery.
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