6 December 2011

Graduation day. That buzz through the hall as lights dim, scattered coughs as the crowd goes silent, and a brief walk into the limelight that feels like forever.

The moment is like magic, but for crack teams of staff the work starts months before to ensure The University of Queensland’s 21 graduation ceremonies go off without a hitch.

The UQ Centre is where most of the ceremonies will take place when graduations kick off tomorrow. Property & Facilities UQ Centre Manager Ray Fong, explains that it takes a small army of people to get the building ready.

“We usually budget 95 labour hours to get the Exhibition Hall suitable for graduation ceremonies,” he said.

“This includes building the stage, laying 2,000 carpet tiles, connecting almost a kilometre of electrical and audio cabling and then setting up 1850 chairs.”

It’s hard work not made any easier by timeframes. The UQ centre hosts conferences which can occur right up until the first ceremony.

“It’s all guns go when the last conference finishes and we start to set up the hall for graduations. Its hard work, but it’s worth it to see the finished product,” Mr Fong said.

On the other side of campus, another team is also working hard to ensure its part in the graduation ceremony is completed on schedule.

Claudia Silby is Graduations Coordinator at UQ. Her team’s work started many months earlier.

“Census date for semester 2 is August 31. This is the time when we get our best indication of how many students may potentially graduate in December. Basically once July graduations are finished we start all over again to get ready for the end of year,” she said.

Ms Silby explained that preparations for Graduation were a team effort.

“Faculty staff have to check the details of their own students to ensure they are up to date –and given the number of students involved this can take months,” she said.

“Then there is the Protocol Office that organises among other things, the VIP functions, the arrangements for Honorary Doctorates, the event management and the massive amounts of catering required for events of this magnitude.

“Property & Facilities teams are at work weeks before the first event ensuring the UQ grounds are pristine and gardens at their best.”

This year, results were released on November 30. The first ceremony is scheduled for Wednesday December 7. Ms Silby agrees that when the date results are released it is when things ramp up.

“It’s only on this date that we actually know who will graduate. That means we have one working week to produce up to 6300 transcripts and certificates.”

“It’s a matter of pride at UQ that every single graduation seal, all 6300 of them, are still stamped manually.

“Our printer and the Office of Marketing and Communications all contribute to the success of the day – it’s a real team effort to get everything done.”

Ms Silby is most proud of the 80 casual staff that help each year with preparing the ceremonies.

“They are all students and they’re often with us for several years over the course of their degree, so when they graduate it’s a very special time for us. They put so much effort into making other people’s ceremonies wonderful - it’s a special moment to see them up on stage themselves.”

To find out more about graduation ceremonies please visit http://www.uq.edu.au/graduations/