Traditional Graduation Festivities

With another semester coming to an end, there are many lucky students, whether finishing a semester early or taking that victory lap, who have finally reached the light at the end of the tunnel – the time to graduate is finally here.  As sad as I am to see many of my friends leaving Michigan State, they are all extremely eager to get out into the ‘real world’ and officially start their careers, much like any other soon-to-be graduate is.  Even though you may not see large groups of students running around campus in their caps and gowns, like in the Spring, seniors still find a way to carry out some of the traditions MSU has acquired over the years, as well as creating new ones.

MSU Seniors at The Senior Swing Out in 1926
Picture provided by Michigan State University: University Archives & Historical Collections

One of the very first traditions at MSU is what was called The Senior Swing Out.  This event would celebrate the first time a graduating class would be seen in their cap and gown.  Although it was the class of 1910 who were the first graduates to wear a cap and gown it was not until a year later, in 1911, that The Senior Swing Out formally took place.  The graduating class would walk around campus together, starting from “the Senior House,” passing the faculty buildings, to Morrill Hall, then the library and old College Hall, finally stopping at what was called Sleepy Hollow, which is the field located directly across from IM Sports Circle.  Upon arriving, the graduating class would get together and form lines to spell out their graduating year.  Graduating seniors continued to uphold this tradition until the early 1960s.

Normally every June, there was also the Water Carnival.  At this event, elaborate floats, designed and made by student organizations, would drift down the Red Cedar River.  The graduating senior class sponsored the first carnival, “Songs of Our Times,” in 1923 with only a few small floats.  According to a 1937 M.A.C. Record, this event drew in more than 10,000 spectators that year, making this one of the most popular events on campus at the time.  Sadly, once America fell into the Great Depression

A Hawaiian themed float in the 1950 Water Carnival
Picture provided by Michigan State University: University Archives & Historical Collections

and fought in World War II, the Water Carnival committee members no longer had the time, let alone money, to plan this event, causing this great tradition to come to an end in 1969.  However, in 2005, the Water Carnival was brought back temporarily in celebration of MSU’s 150th Birthday and as President Lou Anna K. Simon stated, this event “highlighted the rich social spirit of MSU and the community in times past.”

Another highly anticipated tradition was Senior Stunt Days.  According to The M.A.C. Record of May 1922, before graduating, students would parade around campus every Wednesday (at least for the class of 1922) in costumes that “exceeded even the most fanciful creations.”  Stunt Days would also include other entertaining social activities such as dances, roasts and friendly competitions, as well as other fun events, give the seniors the opportunity to make the most of the time they had left.

Although many of these traditions are no longer practiced, students participate in new ones such as painting The Rock and getting a picture with both the Spartan Statue and Sparty.  With many students’ collegiate careers coming to a close, congratulations to all of the Fall graduates and good luck with all of your future endeavors.


Author: Ciera Uyeunten

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