Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Graduation week - for me too

As I walked across campus this morning, I saw the sight of many people dressed up smartly, some in academic dress, for it is (undergraduate) graduation week at the University of Surrey.  Today, it's the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences (aka FHMS).  My faculty ("FEPS" = Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences) is on Friday, and I'll be present at the afternoon ceremony to see our students graduate.  The other two faculties on campus presumably have their ceremonies tomorrow and Thursday.  One of these faculties, by the way, is now called "FBEL" = Faculty of Business, Economics and Law.  It used to be called the Faculty of Management and Law, with the abbreviation FML, which I'm sure caused much amusement to the students before it was deemed that it needed to change.

It can't really be denied that graduation ceremonies are a bit on the boring side, but for the period of the ceremony when the person or people you are there to see are graduating, it's actually rather nice.  I get to see the students who I worked with for their Final Year Projects, and taught in several other courses.  Students who were my personal tutees, students who I know struggled with problems of an academic and non-academic nature, now reaping the reward of their hard work and perseverance.  Occasionally I also see a student who I utterly fail to recognise and wonder why - perhaps because they studied more from books than from lectures or were unusually quiet, or didn't take my optional courses.  Indeed, now that our intake is the size it is, there will be some students who I will never teach, given the way the teaching allocation currently stands.

As I mentioned last year, and the year before, and the year before that,  I have been taking some Open University maths courses for fun, and to give myself the stick of assignments and deadlines to force me to learn some things I never formally did before.  It's been fun (mostly) and it's been useful for several reasons -- not just that I learned new things, but also because it has reminded me what it is actually like to be a student in terms of having particular assignments to do, exams to do, and even what interacting with a University from the other side is like.  Of course I did all that before, but interesting to do it again having seen life from the teaching side.  

This year, I had my final module for the MSc in Mathematics, which was the dissertation.  I wrote one on spline approximations to solutions of the Schrödinger equation, and I'm pleased to say that I passed and did just fine (getting a distinction, as I found out yesterday).  That means I can complete the story by attending a graduation ceremony from the other side, too.  I only managed to find a small picture of the gown I'll be entitled to wear, hence it looks a but blurry, but it's attached to this post.  Might be nice to wear this one at Surrey graduations for a bit of variation!