Senior Walk first steps on May 10

To enrich campus traditions through celebrating graduates, James Johnston, provost and vice president for academic affairs, and Tony Vidmar, vice president for university advancement and public affairs, have coordinated the first Senior Walk on campus for Thursday, May 10 starting beginning at Bolin Fountain at 4 p.m.

According to Johnston, the Senior Walk allows students to remember their time on campus and encourages faculty and staff to celebrate student accomplishments.

“We have a lot of those really important pieces to enhancing our identity at Midwestern through our students, the city and the community, but I think it’s pulling those pieces together and sharing them,” Johnston said. “My hope is that a decade from now, all the things that you cherish will still be here, but the things surrounding it will enhance the identity to where traditions are stronger.”

While Vidmar and Johnston began the project for the Senior Walk, Johnston said the event will “take on a life of its own” as more people become involved with the event and add different elements to it.

“It will still be the heart of the tradition, but we may decide later that some piece is added, but this is one of the fun things about it,” Johnston said. “We started it, let it take root and see what it becomes as the years go by.”

Along with administration, Vidmar and Johnston asked the Student Alumni Council members, an organization established in Spring 2018 to form traditions and link students with alumni, to help contribute to the event.

According to Mitch Kipp, political science freshman and initial part of forming SAC, the graduating students will be celebrated throughout the walk as they stop for each college along the way. A designated person from each college will say a few words to honor the graduates as part of the event, and SAC members will help guide students throughout the trail.

“This transitions seniors to being alumni, and it gives them the chance to part with the university,” Kipp said. “It’s a home for everyone here, and we are hoping to help students get more involved through events like this. The more you put in, the more you get out, so by getting involved on campus, [students] can be more engaged with each other.”

Part of bridging the students to alumni is active connections through recently graduated seniors so those students take pride in their education and university, Ruby Arriaga, student involvement activities coordinator, said.

“When older generations look back at their college days they are so excited talking about them,” Arriaga said. “Hopefully, they will find when they take that last walk across the campus, this is just one more journey before they walk across that stage. When you think about your college days, don’t you want to have fond memories, too?”

With about 6,000 students on campus and almost 700 graduating seniors, Vidmar said students are able to connect with their instructors and peers in a more intimate way than at campuses with much larger populations, and Johnston said this creates a unique experience for each student.

As a university, Johnston said the faculty and administration work to provide students opportunities to succeed well after they leave campus. From students’ first steps on campus to a new class or going to the homecoming bonfire, Johnston said students form fond memories through every avenue Midwestern has.

“With each experience, we are always looking for new opportunities to provide for the students,”Johnston said. “Each time a class is taught, our faculty are looking to make it better just as we are around campus, so we are never done. The cool thing about that is then alum can be part of the experience.”

Many of the donations Midwestern receives are from alumni, and Vidmar said “happy alumni” want to be a part of traditions to further connect to their college days.

“We know that happy alumni are happy donors, and traditions are a part of that,” Vidmar said. “As we’ve grown and matured, it’s time for Midwestern State University to add more of those. Traditions are a bonding thing, and we need to be looking for things that bond us together not tear us apart, that’s another beautiful aspect of traditions.”

Events like the Senior Walk, Vidmar said, encourage students to feel pride for their educations throughout their lives.

“As we have this event, there is a cause to tell this story,” Vidmar said. “When we have these types of events, they trigger a new memory, and they stay with you forever. In a time where there is so much dividing in our society, traditions are one of the unifiers.

As a first generation college student, Johnston said he become a reference point for family members to look toward for encouragement and inspiration and has helped lead other member of his family to pursue a college education.

Through events that honor students, Johnston said he hopes this will “cultivate legacy families” that continue to come back to Midwestern.

“There’s only ever one first, and hopefully it will be an amazing time for all our graduates,” Johnston said. “We help each other, we are a family, and I hope that as students graduate they are sure in that identity. They are a Mustang, and we are always looking back to carry on the traditions of family.”