I glanced at an article on the BBC News website concerning the tricky territory faced by many a student and academic – pronouncing someones name right at a graduation ceremony.
From being both a graduand with a difficult surname and a person who makes gainful employment at a towering institution of higher education (perhaps not towering), I can see the pressures for all involved.
From the HE point of view – it genuinely means a huge amount to us that we get your name right. We know how much it means to our graduates and we know their families and friends are either in the hall with you, watching on a big screen nearby or online around the world.
This is the moment you have been working for since you started education at the age of 4. We know that for many people, this is the end of formal education and we want it to be a wonderful moment for you.
I saw in the BBC article that some institutions hire linguists sometimes. In my experience it is down to practice. The Dean (at least in our case) who reads out the names, will honestly scour the names and read them again and again. Anything the Dean isn’t sure of, we ask that persons personal tutor – or another tutor who knows this person well and ask them.
The effort that goes into the simply reading of names is huge. Or rather, it certainly is where I work.
As a graduand back in the early years of the twenty-first century, I remember feeling knots. I was so terrified that they would get my annoyingly difficult but very simple looking surname wrong (or rather, my maiden name).
When it was read out properly – to my unending delight – I did a fist bump and little skip as I crossed the stage. My degree was hard won despite illness, a whole gaggle of unsavoury characters all fighting to play the bigger villain of the piece and an overall particularly awful student experience.
The fact I did not give in , made my hop, skip and a jump on my big day all the sweeter.
Of course, I went to an institution far, far away from where I work now. Certainly, I get the feeling we care more here (although I can only hope my alma mater has changed dramatically since those long ago days).
So please don’t fret about your name, at least at my behemoth of intellect of an employer, we got this. And yes, we truly, truly care.
If you are going to graduate shortly – well done! If you are going to reading out the names – good luck!