A crew of more than two: Graduating with your village

27 November 2019

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, there's also a village of support behind almost every university graduate, and a new ANU tradition is designed to acknowledge them.

Meet Kate Thomson and her village. Parents Garry and Susan, Honours supervisor Dr Stephanie Goodhew, and dear friends Anna and Ashleigh are key members of her support crew. As a Canberra local, Kate has been lucky to have immediate family and established friends close at hand while studying a Bachelor of Psychology (Honours) at ANU. But new friendships forged on campus and the support of the academic community have been fundamental to flourishing at ANU. 

With 3,000 ANU students like Kate graduating in December, that's a huge community of family, friends, lecturers, tutors and peers who have contributed to their success. The very first Grand Graduation picnic party will be an opportunity for everyone in this community to come together to celebrate-no limits on tickets, everyone is welcome! Our students have put in the hard yards and with this new ANU tradition will be recognised by their whole village of support on 10 December 2019.  

REGISTER BY TUESDAY 3 DECEMBER! If you are a graduating student, to secure your FREE robe hire and picnic lunch for you and your crew make sure you RSVP via Eventbrite. 

Open homes and open arms

This past year doing Honours has been the “most intense” for Kate, with the new challenges of deep research and writing up a thesis.

“Having open homes and open arms” within her friendship network has been invaluable. Retreating to friends’ houses to study and recharge through their cooking and care, and giving the same back, has been a survival strategy.  

While Kate has lots of friends graduating from psychology degrees, many more have studied other disciplines, so she can’t wait to celebrate all together with a relaxed picnic under the trees on University Avenue.

“Most graduates are going to have more than two people they want to celebrate with, so Grand Graduation is an opportunity on a personal level to have your wider support network,” says Kate.

“But I think it’s also good on a community level to see that you’re part of something bigger. To see how big the ANU community is and feel you’re a part of that, rather than just another droplet moving through the ocean.”

Great friends talk about everything and nothing

Ashleigh and Kate met in O-Week in the first semester of their first year at ANU and have been great friends ever since. Ashleigh is studying engineering, so hasn’t ever shared a class with Kate, but is an essential part of her village of support. Regular Tuesday catch-ups have become an important ritual to “vent about frustrations, and talk about everything and nothing”, says Ashleigh. It’s a time to “release the tension and stress of studying that can build up”.  

Ashleigh isn’t graduating until next year, but the new Grand Graduation celebration means that she will be able to cheer Kate on.

“Having a big event with everyone, regardless of what degree they are taking, is a great way of doing it.”

Anna agrees.

“I think it’s a fantastic idea—I’m a bit jealous actually! Because I graduated last year before this tradition started. Being able to celebrate with your friends is something that I actually did miss last year, especially because a lot of my friends in the psychology group went on to Honours, while I went on to work,” says Anna, a psychology graduate and close friend.  

A crew of more than two

Traditionally, tickets to graduation ceremonies are as rare as Golden Tickets to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. But with the new Grand Graduation event, students will no longer have to single out just two of their crew.   

“Community is incredibly important when it comes to graduation because it wasn’t just my parents who helped me. It was also my friends at Burton and Garran Hall where I was living. It was my friends in classes. It was everyone who got together, especially my tutors and lecturers,” says Anna.

Seeing students off into the world

Kate’s relationship with her academic supervisor Stephanie has been “absolutely wonderful”.  

“As an academic she’s incredible, but also as a supervisor and at that human level she has been incredibly kind and supportive. She has provided me with the support I need, both academically and personally, as I made my way through this Honours year,” says Kate.

Stephanie will be at the Grand Graduation celebration cheering on Kate and one of her PhD candidates. She encourages fellow academics to be there to “see students off into the world and celebrate their achievements”.

“Academics can play an important role in the life of a student and that’s something I really value,” says Stephanie.  

“It’s a great opportunity for family to be involved because you get to a point at university where your family don’t really understand what you do anymore,” she reflects, looking back to her own graduation. 

The parent taxi

Kate’s village starts at home, with parents Garry and Susan. As well as driving the “parent taxi”, they provide unwavering emotional and practical support to their daughter.

“I always have them to turn to when things are tough or I need someone to proofread a draft or talk an idea through,” says Kate.

Garry is very proud of his youngest daughter for rising to the challenge of Honours—a year during which he learned more than he bargained for about psychology by reading Kate’s draft papers.

A (very busy) gap year

She’s really excited about graduation because it marks the completion of four years of hard work and study—and that’s a “big confidence booster”. In 2020 Kate’s taking a gap year. By “gap year” she means returning to ANU to work as a research assistant and get her thesis ready for publication.

Ultimately, Kate hopes to do a Masters of Clinical Psychology. But she’ll see “where the wind blows” her, surrounded by a loving village to buffer any storms.

REGISTER TODAY: Graduating in December? Make sure you’re at the first ever Grand Graduation FREE picnic party with your support crew of family and friends—bring as many as you like.

Calling ANU academics: You’ve put in the hard work to prepare students for graduation, now it’s time for the ANU community to come together to celebrate our achievements! Register to attend the first ever Grand Graduation event.