There’s something special here about being a part of Castleton University.
And graduation is bringing it out.
As cliched as “the small university with a big heart” is, our smaller school truly does give students the rare opportunity to forge meaningful relationships with professors. In larger instituions, students seldom get to know their professors on a personal level, and lecture halls with 500-plus students have a dozen or more teacher’s assistants to grade papers.
Graduating May 7, senior hockey player Eric Mack says he’s not only going to miss the hockey team, but also the connection he shared with his professors, whom he says he got to know very well.
Mack says Castleton professors really can be “like friends who are there to support you.”
“My advisor, Dr. Kimmel, he’s been there for me since I got here to Castleton. He basically laid out what I needed to do. If I ever needed any help, I could ask him. He even guided me to get into grad school,” a master’s program in occupational therapy at Baypath University.
“All the classes I needed, he made sure I had. Dr. Kimmel was always there for me,” Mack says.
And it’s not just students who will be experiencing the plethora of emotions come commencement. Besides parents, who always seem to be getting too emotional, professors get to enjoy a bittersweet day as well.
Math professor Gillian Galle says that “when you watch students progress from their first year, and then watch who they’ve become as an individual crossing the stage, its a really mixed bag: you’re proud of them, but you’re also a little sad, because this means this chapter with them has ended for you.”
Communication Professor David Blow says he enjoys meeting the parents of students who he grew close to over four years, and, like Galle, seeing the capable adult who a once-young freshman has grown to be over their years at Castleton.
“You look at a student like (junior) Catherine Twing, who wouldn’t even look at me in the eye as a freshman, and this year she interviewed a presedential candidate,” he said. “And a senior like Sara Novenstern, who was super shy and lacking confidence, now is a photographer with a very accomplished portfolio.”
Senior chemistry major Catie Wielgasz is nervous but excited for graduation, and to move across the country to the University of Montana for graduate school. She looks forward to being independant and making new friends in her journey after Castleton.
“I think graduating can be nerve-wracking because you never know what will happen next, but not knowing makes life more interesting and fun,” Wielgasz said.
Senior lacrosse player Taylor Swarter says he definitely has mixed emotions about graduating, and said “it doesn’t feel like it’s about to happen in two weeks.”
Mack agrees, saying “I’m pretty sad. It’s been pretty much four years of having a great time.”
But come the morning of May 8, things will never be the same. Castleton’s class of 2016 will be off to interviews, off to jobs, or off to graduate schools.
“If you’re lucky, students will stop by and visit again; but otherwise, you may not really know what happens to them when you release them into the real world,” Galle says.