New events added to Senior Commencement Celebrations

Jessica Schneider, Freelance Writer

Commencement week for graduating seniors is an emotional time of growth and new beginnings. Viterbo President, Rick Trietley, has acted on his goal to celebrate this time by adding two new events to the Commencement Week schedule: the Senior Dinner and the Blessing Ceremony. Kirsten Gabriel, Interim Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students, says that as a “student-centered President,” Trietley was eager to create more events to celebrate graduating seniors.  

The Senior Dinner with the President, or “Senior Soiree,” will take place in the Mathy Center on May 12.  Similar to the President’s Holiday Dinner, the dinner will be an elegant event, bringing out all the nicest plates and silverware for the graduating class, says Gabriel. “Our goal,” she continues, “is to have our picture slideshows and all those other things that really celebrate the past four years and bring that together.”   

The second event, the Sending and Blessing Ceremony, will take place in the Assisi Courtyard on May 14. “Bring your tissues,” says Gabriel, as this will be an emotional event for all involved. The ceremony will be a direct callback to the Welcoming Blessing that every incoming first-year student receives during orientation. The senior letter to the first-year class also will be drafted and shared at the Sending and Blessing Ceremony. The goal of these events is to connect back to the Welcoming as much as possible, and in doing so emphasize the sense of continuity that keeps the Viterbo community so tightly knit.  

Seniors are an integral part of these events as they not only get to attend these events, but also provide input and direction for these events as well. Seniors can contribute to any stage of the process, from music playlists to dinner menus, as well as day-of volunteering and post-event surveys. “If it’s not owned by students,” says Gabriel, “then it’s not as good as it could be.”  

Mitchell Shaw, Senior Class Representative for the Senior Soirée and Candlelight Ceremony, tells us that these events are “the first campus-sponsored opportunity for seniors, like myself, to truly celebrate the journey we have taken here at Viterbo.” This new opportunity for Senior recognition and celebration is at the root of President Trietley’s goals. “Our goal is to cultivate unforgettable memories for seniors to think fondly on as alumni,” says Shaw.  

According to Kathy Duerwatcher, Director of Alumni Engagement, becoming an alumni is another important aspect of events which serve as an opportunity for seniors to contemplate those aspects of Viterbo University that make student life so special. The Senior Soiree will feature a video that reflects on the past four years to show that, in looking back, students can see the areas of Viterbo that may need future alumni support. Duerwatcher says that alumni engagement after these events will be an indicator of their success. 

Sharing your time, resources and energy is a good way to give back, says Duerwatcher. How can seniors get involved now? Gabriel told us that anyone in the senior class is invited to offer their ideas on slideshows, speakers, and scheduling. Shaw also invites the senior class to step up, saying that any other seniors, or even “passionate juniors,” interested in volunteering can contact him via email.  

As event coordinators acknowledge, moving on to the next chapter of your life can be daunting. In this hectic time, these events provide an exciting opportunity to reflect on the past, present, and future of student life at Viterbo University.