This spring 4,530 students, a record number, are graduating from Portland State, but as of May 27, only 1,751 people had signed up for commencement.
Commencement is held in the Rose Garden Arena and can last up to four hours. While participation in the ceremony is officially free, participants are required to dress in formal regalia that can cost between $20 and $40 and with the addition of announcements and keepsakes, involvement can cost graduates and their families hundreds of dollars.
In addition to the costs and despite criticism of last year’s event, commencement is again being held on the same day as the Rose Festival parade, which clogs downtown Portland with thousands of onlookers and their parked vehicles.
Jayda Klingerman, a 27-year-old arts and letters major, decided not to take part in the ceremony. “I have been to college commencements before and they are horrible, they are so boring. That was the last thing I wanted to subject my friends and family to,” Klingerman said. “Not to mention the fact that I get pretty uncomfortable these days.” Klingerman is eight months pregnant with a boy she plans to name Asher.
Because of her pregnancy, Klingerman and her family are not as focused on her graduation. “My family is way more consumed in me having a baby. My graduation has taken a back-burner position,” she said.
Emily Leonard, 22, is also an arts and letters major, but her decision not to walk is largely in response to her dissatisfaction with PSU and with undergraduate education. “I don’t want to waste my time walking. I don’t think a college degree is that hard to get. I feel like it’s a waste for everyone to sit around and slap each other on the back,” she said.
Both Klingerman and Leonard chose to major in arts and letters to expedite their education, but for very different reasons. Klingerman, who was originally an English major, found out that she was pregnant during winter term and she went to advising to evaluate her situation. “I found out I could graduate sooner with arts and letters, and the classes that I had to choose from sounded more appealing,” she said.
Although originally a theater major, Leonard became frustrated with the department because she felt it didn’t challenge her. “I was a theater major and I really hate the theater department. I was never taught anything, so I quit,” she said.
After dropping out of the theater program Leonard went to advising. “I found out that the quickest way to graduate was in arts and letters,” she said.
Leonard is leaving PSU feeling like it was a waste of her time. “I feel so hopeless, maybe I’ll go back and do the four years over again,” she said. “I don’t even know what arts and letters is, it’s a bullshit degree! What can I do with it?”
Klingerman is much more optimistic about her future. She has been working a full-time job as a contact manager for Farmers Insurance while taking a full courseload at PSU. “I have the career going already. I’ve been going to school full-time and working full-time, so I take a lot of WebCT classes and evening classes,” she said.
Klingerman recently found out that her scholarship from the Ford Family Foundation has been extended to her future graduate work. “I haven’t decided what I’m going to do in graduate school, but I’m leaning towards a business degree,” she said.
While she plans on going to graduate school in a year, for now Klingerman is focused on being a mother. “I have a year to take a break from the school-and-work routine and be a mom,” she said.
As for balancing her future education and motherhood, Klingerman feels confident. “I know it’s going to be a lot of work, but rather than working 9 to 5, I’ll be going to school instead so I’ll have a more flexible schedule.”