Medallions given back to students graduating

May 12, 2011

by Rebecca Spence, STAFF REPORTER

When freshmen, who are now seniors, walked the candlelit path from Howard Auditorium for the Performing Arts to the Lady of the Mist four years ago after the first academic convocation, they carried a symbolic medallion to deposit into the Lady’s fountain, with the promise that it would be returned to them when they walked across the stage during graduation.

Stacy Gilbert, director of co-curricular programs and disability services, Linda Griffin, dean of student development in the division of student affairs have worked with members of administration to make this promise come true.

“That first fall of 2007 we told those freshmen that when they graduate in four years they would receive a medallion,” Gilbert said. “So this is the first spring that we will be giving those back to the students.”

Academic convocation was pioneered with the First Year Experience program that began at Tech during fall 2007 as well. According to the First-Year Experience mission statement the program was created, “to support and advance efforts to improve academic and co-curricular resources into and through the first-year student’s higher education experience.”

During this process, administration had been searching for a home to the medallion ceremony and decided the freshman academic convocation was the right ceremony for the part. It would be an event for everyone, regardless of college, could come together as the new members of Tech.

“It struck us that there wasn’t any one event where all freshmen were welcomed,” Gilbert said.

To begin the ceremony, incoming freshmen are handed a medallion before the one-hour convocation, which includes alumni, student and administrative speakers, and are expected to hold on to it throughout the service. Freshmen are then ushered out on the candlelit, alumni-lined path leading to the Lady of the Mist, which is surrounded by the deans of each college. The freshmen are then asked to deposit their medallion into the fountain. It is promised to them that they will get one back when they graduate.

“We kind of want to wet the appetite of the student,” Griffin said. “They get to hold the medallion for that hour with the promise that one day, they will have them forever.”

The medallions will be handed back to each graduating senior, regardless of attendance at the freshmen convocation. After walking across the stage and receiving a diploma, no matter what the circumstance, each graduate will be awarded a medallion.

“It is a significant icon that will remind them of their time at Tech,” Griffin said. ” Also, to remind them that the tenets are the guiding principles for the rest of their lives, not just during their time at Tech.”

The medallions have a picture of the Lady of the Mist on the front and the Tenets of Tech on the back, with the graduation year underneath. This is different from the original design the freshman were issued in 2007, which had Centennial Plaza on the front instead of the Lady of the Mist.

Gilbert and Griffin both believe that the Lady of the Mist has become more of a symbol of Tech and the story behind her open arms is the reason the medallions are returned to graduates in the first place.

“Her arms represent her saying ‘you are welcome, always’,” Griffin said. “In the university seminar booklet it says something along the lines of ‘welcomes new students and bids farewell to those leaving’.”

Mallory Smith, senior interior design major, remembers depositing her medallion in the Lady of the Mist as a freshman, and all the hopes she had for her future.

“When I put the medallion in the Lady of the Mist, it symbolized my commitment to my education while at Tech,” she said. “It was the beginning of my growth as a person and it also meant that Tech was also committed to me as a student.”

Smith said the medallion is an immediate reminder of the time she has spent at Tech. It is something graduates can carry with them wherever their future takes them.

“The medallion is a physical object that students can keep to remind themselves of the values that Louisiana Tech has taught them,” she said.

Gilbert and Griffin said overall there has been a very positive response to the medallions from faculty members, alumni and students.

“Students who have graduated early and have emailed us about their medallions,” Griffin said.

Their hope is that the tradition will continue and it will be something that students look forward to throughout their years at Tech. They are working on convocation for graduate students as well to incorporate them into this symbolic ceremony.

“It’s a symbol of the investment they made in themselves and in Louisiana Tech and what Louisiana Tech meant to them during their time here,” Gilbert said. ” It is symbolic of their future and that investment they made in themselves.”

Email comments to res022@latech.edu.