GradFest helps cap off years at U

Emily Banks

While picking out diploma frames, caps and gowns, this semester’s graduating students glimpsed the end of their time at the University.

More than 30 exhibits filled Coffman Union Great Hall on Wednesday for GradFest, an event to prepare seniors for graduation. The event will continue through today.

For Wanyi Kung, GradFest marked the beginning of the end of a long journey towards her doctorate in music.

“I’m not a student anymore,” she said, after entering her name in a drawing for a luggage set.

This semester saw 4,400 students apply to receive their diploma, an increase from last year’s 3,400 who graduated with a baccalaureate degree, said John Kellogg, an analyst from the Institutional Research and Reporting office.

GradFest coordinator Kari Erpenbach said the event allows students to take care of several things all at once, including purchasing a cap and gown, completing a financial aid exit interview and joining the University’s Alumni Association.

“Getting ready to graduate should be a fun process. You’ve worked very hard to get your degree and graduating shouldn’t be a hassle,” she said. “It’s a process you should enjoy and look forward to.”

Alumni Association Program Director Chad Kono encouraged students to join the association “just to show pride and support for the ‘U.’ “

Kono said students can benefit from an alumni database, limited access to University business and professional journals and a subscription to the alumni magazine.

“It’s just a way of staying connected,” he said.

Representatives from the Office of Student Finance handed students summaries of their loans, often receiving disappointed responses.

Tom Schmidt, associate director of the Office of Student Finance, spoke to students about how to pay off loans and maintain good credit.

Schmidt said the federal government wants the University to give students information about their loans, especially information about the consequences of not repaying them.

When they first began offering a mini-money management course at GradFest, some students already had gone bankrupt, he said.

Other exhibits included caterers with food samples, STA Travel, the Learning Abroad Center, the Peace Corps and the chance to buy University apparel and college rings.