PAYAP UNIVERSITY HOLDS A COMMENCEMENT AGAIN
After the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted gatherings of all sorts, with the relaxation of regulations in Thailand in effect, Payap University conducted a full-fledged commencement event on the days surrounding November 27, 2022 for both the 44th and 45th graduating classes.
The university and several individuals posted pictures on social media which give us a view of commencement traditions here in Thailand. Some of these are not found in Europe or North America.
THE MAIN EVENT
The commencement service is all about presentation of diplomas. The service began at 6 p.m. after the daily playing of the Thai National Anthem and lowering of the flag. Then the procession began.
At Payap University, owned and operated by the Protestant CHURCH OF CHRIST IN THAILAND FOUNDATION, the commencement service was conducted as a Christian worship service. So, the cross and candle carried by chaplains were at the head of the procession across campus into the Saisantham Arena. The out-going Vice Moderator of the CCT was the first official in the procession, followed by the President of the university and the president of the Board of Trustees and the president of the Support Committee.
Banners for the university and for each of the schools and colleges were carried into the arena and formed a colorful backdrop behind the faculty.
It is customary for the governing boards of universities in Thailand to wear university robes in commencement ceremonies, with 4 arm-bands. The President’s robe has gold embellishments and he is wearing a chain of office. The President of the Board has a white bow on the shoulders. The Chiang Mai Governor or his representative offered congratulations.
Graduate students are seated in front, with undergraduates seated behind precisely in the order in which their names will be called. The service begins with a prayer and then the senior Vice President reads a report on the university’s accomplishments, ending with the number of graduates and this cohort. Deans from each college read the names of the graduates.
At Payap the number of graduates is not massive so there is no sense of urgency. In larger universities the march across the platform is rapid and continuous.
It is essential that the moment the diploma is received be captured on film. Graduation photos are the most important reason for the commencement ceremony, in the minds of most. That is many times more important when a member of royalty is presenting the diplomas. At Payap that role is done by the university president.
Following the presentation of diplomas, the President of the University Board of Trustees gave a charge to the graduates, the Moderator of the CCT gives a blessing, and the head of the student body leads the students in a pledge to uphold the values of their education and of the institution which is not their alma mater.
The orchestra of the Payap University College of Music provided the processional and recessional marches. Because of our excellent college, music is featured during commencement.
Throughout the awarding of diplomas, Thai music provided accompaniment.
The choir of the College of Music sang an anthem, and the Royal Anthem.
Some family members were seated on bleachers in the stadium, but most were outside watching the ceremony on large monitors.
The Department of Communication Arts provided television coverage throughout the evening.
Editing and direction was from a room above the stadium. The commencement ceremony was available online to those who wanted it, anywhere in the world!
Each faculty and college provided a form of “closing” sometime during the last few days leading up to the commencement on Saturday night. Those gatherings of graduating students usually included talks by faculty members and a student, as well as a video review of campus life and memories.
Friday was the final dress rehearsal, followed by group pictures, including photos of each graduating group together with faculty and university administrators.
The university conducted a Baccalaureate Service prior to the Commencement. Graduate students received their hoods in the Henry Luce Chapel. The seminary held a commissioning service for graduates entering or continuing in Christian service vocations.
It would be difficult to over-emphasize the importance of pictures. Most students want their graduation to be memorable. Pictures are counted on to do that.
Students want pictures of themselves in robes with as many friends, teachers, and relatives in as many locations on campus and around town as possible. These photo-opportunities are also times for giving gifts. Flowers, stuffed animals, and garlands of cash are customary.
Each college and faculty set up a backdrop for these congratulatory pictures.
Here a student is surrounded by a circle of colleagues who chant and posture in a way that is difficult to interpret except to say that it signifies the end of this relationship and the promise of a relationship going on, as a new class becomes seniors.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.