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Posted on Sat, Apr 28, 2012 : 1:40 p.m.

4,000 seniors withstand cold at University of Michigan graduation

By Kellie Woodhouse

It wasn't a victory against rival Ohio State University or a game-winning Hail Mary touchdown that brought some 45,000 people in Michigan Stadium to their feet in cheers Saturday.

It was graduation: theirs, a friend's or a son's or daughter's. It was a day that had been anticipated for at least four years and finally arrived on Saturday morning when roughly 4,000 University of Michigan undergraduates withstood the frigid and windy weather and began a new phase of their lives.

“I just ran into my freshman year roommate and it felt like yesterday,” said Zach Salt, a sports manager major. “This week has just been a blur.”

Added engineering major Cristina Vresics:

"It’s almost like a state of mourning. A happy mourning. We’re all going to leaving,” she said. “I’m nervous about not having anymore transitional periods. There’s no more summers off.”

Those who celebrated commencement Saturday compose roughly one-third of the 11,574 individuals who are graduating from U-M this spring, including undergraduates, masters-level degree recipients, Ph.D. candidates and medical and law students.

CNN medical correspondent and neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta, a U-M alumnus, encouraged graduates to take risks, forge distinctive paths and value friendships and family during his commencement address.

"It’s a Michigan tradition to always read the directions but not always follow them," he said.

He added: "Today you might be feeling a little bit scared and you might be kicking yourself for feeling that way, but don't," he continued. "I think being scared is good, and I think the corollary is also true. Never being scared is bad."


University of Michigan seniors Teeruth Thungkasemvathana, Rhiannon Rosinski and Ben Isaacoff cheer during the playing of "The Victors" toward the end of the commencement ceremony at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor Saturday.

Angela J. Cesere |

Communications major Caitlin Smith can relate. She said leaving the familiar setting of college after four years “is a little daunting.”

“Because you always hear that college is the best four years of your life,” she said.

Smith, Vresics and Salt all have jobs after college. So does graduate Emily Rogoff, who is working New Orleans next year for Teach for America. Although she's delighted to have a job, Rogoff said the responsibility that comes with employment is overwhelming.

“I’m really excited about living in New Orleans, but I’m really, really nervous about what I’m going to be doing,” she said. “Every decision I’ve been making for the past four years has really only impacted me, and now I am going to be in a position where every decision I make will impact 20, 40, 60 students.”

For social work major Ann Newberg, it hadn’t fully set in that she was leaving U-M. Pointing to her cap, she said: “I feel like I’m playing dress up.”

Newberg's plans are less concrete than some of her counterparts.

"It’s terrifying,” she said of graduating. “I don’t know what I’m doing when I graduate. I wish I could stay a little longer.”

Of the 2011 graduates of U-M's College of Literature, Sciences and the Arts, 54 percent of students secured jobs before or shortly after graduation and 38 percent chose to continue their education, according to a voluntary response survey.

Philip J. Deloria, LSA associate dean, told graduates that they've "learned more in four dedicated years than you might otherwise have in 20."

"You are uniquely well trained to connect the dots, to built the network, to shape the path that others will follow," Deloria said.

Gupta said students fearful of moving on from college or securing a job should connect with the large network of Michigan alumni throughout the world.

"That’s the real world out there. There's all sorts of challenges that people are going to face," he said in an interview. "Use your resources. Talk to the people who were Michigan graduates before you."

Graduate Melissa Walters, who is continuing her education, said that though they may be nervous, she's hopeful most graduates will find that they're prepared to tackle what lies ahead.

“It’s always nerve-racking leaving what you know,” she said. “But we have been well prepared and we really have grown up lot here."

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Mon, Apr 30, 2012 : 2:31 p.m.

We live near EMU. I am so glad we went out to eat lunch early. Boy did that restaurant get full fast. Sounds like a busy grad weekend and a boon to the restaurant industry too.


Mon, Apr 30, 2012 : 1:09 p.m.

Good luck to all the graduates.


Sun, Apr 29, 2012 : 9:26 p.m.

Wow, those poor elderly people are probably still frozen ... all 4,000 seniors out there in the cold !


Sun, Apr 29, 2012 : 4:32 p.m.

Seeing all these U of M graduates streaming through the streets after the commencement ceremony certainly gladdened my heart. Our Michigan grad daughter is successful and still loves her work in education and is very well regarded by both her students and colleagues. But, seeing the streaming throng of freshly minted U of M graduates (and their families): openly disregard traffic signals at every crosswalk - was "somewhat less heart gladdening." And the message is: That degree you have worked so hard to earn is not a license to be careless of reality. That degree does not insulate you from the consequences of your own folly. LIFE, not just your profession, must be taken seriously. The one vehicle collision I witnessed (Division & Packard, just after Noon) would have been fatal if the driver of the vehicle (looked to be the father of the grad in the back seat) had been as much as one second "ahead" of the vehicle he TURNED INTO while trying to make a left onto Packard. His vehicle might have been "t-boned" and possibly rolled. Fortunately, all occupants appeared unharmed as they got out of their vehicles. But I was shaken up: I was stopped at the light and clearly saw what might have been the end of an ENTIRE family who, a second before were smiling and happy at this great event in their lives.


Sun, Apr 29, 2012 : 3:08 p.m.

Now try & fine a job.


Sun, Apr 29, 2012 : 12:59 p.m.

4,000 people? It looks like the March of the Penguins. Everyone huddle together to keep warm. So glad the traffic will be much easier next week when they shut down State Street.


Sun, Apr 29, 2012 : 11:02 a.m.

CONGRATS and welcome to the REAL world.


Sun, Apr 29, 2012 : 2:37 a.m.

Congratulations to the UM Class of 2012!!


Sun, Apr 29, 2012 : 12:20 a.m.

I hate it when your photo galleries don't work. I want to go to the next photo, please, not reload the page.


Sat, Apr 28, 2012 : 7:43 p.m.

Love to see you return each Summer ready to begin your studies at UM and bring your energy back to Ann Arbor ... but have to admit it, also enjoy the temporary reprieve when many of you depart for a short time away during the summer, hopefully to return to enjoy the charms of Ann Arbor once again a couple few months later ! Enjoy your summer break :)


Sun, Apr 29, 2012 : 2:33 p.m.

And we can park downtown and not have AS MANY rude pedestrians crossing where there isn't a crosswalk or the light is clearly flashing "DON'T WALK!"


Sat, Apr 28, 2012 : 7:20 p.m.

Congratulations, everyone!

Dog Guy

Sat, Apr 28, 2012 : 6:51 p.m.

4.000 seniors were there? Was there a penalty for absence?

Kai Petainen

Sat, Apr 28, 2012 : 6:42 p.m.

is there a way to watch or read Gupta's speech? i'm curious to see what he said...

Kai Petainen

Sun, Apr 29, 2012 : 4:29 a.m.

cindy... thanks!

Cindy Heflin

Sat, Apr 28, 2012 : 7:52 p.m.

You can watch a video of the ceremony here: