Nerd Factor: Unique Features of Commencement 2019

Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

The 2018-2019 academic year has brought a number of changes to our institution.  It should come as no surprise that the 2019 Commencement ceremonies will reflect that dynamism.  As our graduating seniors should already appreciate, for the first time the ceremony will be split into separate events, with the undergraduate procession on Saturday.  The Nerd Factor would also like to call your attention to some other unique features of the 2019 ceremony.

The summoning of the campus mace: As the campus mace was carved from a limb of the world tree Yggdrasil itself, it should come as no surprise that the ancient symbol of the university is also a potent mystical weapon.  Each year, the longest-serving faculty member steps into the Dell and summons the mace to his or her hand (much as Mjolnir flies into the outstretched hand of the Mighty Thor). As my long-time Critograph column friend Dr. Clifton Potter is retiring this year, we can expect his final summoning of the mace to be particularly symbolic affair.  Dr. Potter will be calling down the lighting and summoning the noble hosts of Valhalla to smite the enemies of the university back to Hell just before the processional begins. Although this moment will long be remembered in song, be sure to arrive early to witness these events yourself.

No hot dog vendors: Due to the shortened nature of the event, hot dog vendors will not be roaming among the students, faculty, and guests at commencement as they have in years past.  Likewise, soft pretzels will not be available. Please visit the campus bookstore for t-shirts and other commemorative items.

A surprise political announcement by President Garren?:  Don’t you think it’s a little suspicious that he’s retiring from the university before the 2020 election season?  Yeah, me too.

A slightly longer look of acknowledgement from that person you knew in that class that one time:  A shorter ceremony will allow an additional 15 sections for this moment.

The extraction of Provost Selden: As you may also know, Provost Sally Selden is also leaving us to join the administration at The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina.  While we were told this would occur over the summer, sources have told the Nerd Factor that the transition will occur after the very moment she completes reading the names of the students. Students should not be alarmed by the arrival of the SEAL teams. Their presence is ceremonial only.  Since the exfil point is the stage itself, students should also hold on tight to their mortar boards as the helicopter hovering directly over the graduation stage will create a great deal of wind.

The Findin’ O the Professors: In an imaginary tradition that presumably began at Irish institutions in the mid-1800s that this author did not research well, the main highlight of a shortened commencement for the faculty will be more time to interact with the students. We know that you’re heading off on more adventures, but we sincerely hope that you’ll find us one last time before you leave.  

First Year Vibes: Being Full of Life

Anna – Catherine Keung ~ Assistant Editor

Recently, I started listening to “Let It Happen” by United Pursuit and it has very beautiful song lyrics of “You’re full of life now / and full of passion / that’s how He made you / just let it happen.”

Regardless of your religious beliefs, I hope you agree that being full of life is a great quality to have. I know in college, it is not always easy to be that way. You may even be wondering, what does it mean to be “full of life?”

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Mystic Magic: Shades of Magic

Grace Cavanaugh ~ Staff Writer

There are plenty of amazing books out there about magic. This week, I want to talk about V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic, the first book in her Shades of Magic trilogy.

These books caught my eye every time I went to the Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, but I never thought about them when I had money to buy books. In fact, none of them were on my “To Be Read” list.

When I finally bought my own copy of A Darker Shade of Magic, it took me even longer to start reading it. As college students, we do not have much free time. Eventually, though, I started reading the book, and then I could not put it down.

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Mystic Magic: Raven Boys

Grace Cavanaugh ~ Staff Writer

Recently, I finished a book I have had on my “To Be Read” list for a while: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. My aunt bought me this book when I was 16, along with another book that was signed by Stiefvater, but I had not read either in the past four years.

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Mystic Magic: Importance of Candles

Grace Cavanaugh ~ Staff Writer

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Last week was the official first day of spring, the Vernal Equinox, Ostara. This year, I wanted to do something, a ritual or “spell”, to celebrate and maybe have that influx of creativity that a ritual on Ostara is supposed to send you.

I realized very quickly that I should have done my research before taking on this last minute thing. The few websites I visited called for a lot of different ingredients, from crystals to feathers to herbs, and every single one needed an abundance of white candles.

Now, I am here neither to confirm nor deny candles in my possession, but it seemed to me like these candles were a big deal. Why were so many of these rituals heaven-bent on getting you to purchase so many white candles?

I decided to do a little digging on why candles were so important to rituals and spells. Of course, candles are not just important to pagan rituals, but Christian rituals too. During Advent in December, candles are lit every Sunday to represent hope, light, love, and eventually, the coming of Jesus Christ. In my church, we had three skinny purple candles, one skinny pink candle, and a large white candle that represented Jesus.

In paganism, candles can also represent deities. When placed on altars, they become the physical representation of who/what you are calling on. They are also used to represent the elements: fire, water, air, and earth. One website,, said that “the lighting and extinguishing of candles often marks the opening and closing of rituals.”

My next question was: why white candles? Why couldn’t I use a green candle or a blue candle? This gets more into the color candles that you would use and what those candles represent.

White, for example, represents cleansing, purification, and truth, according to The purpose of an Ostara ritual is to plant the seeds for a coming year. It’s a flow of creative energy, and for some, romantic energy.

One of the sites I visited looking for rituals,, talked about how you planted the seeds that you wanted to harvest throughout the year on Ostara. It’s the time of new beginnings. “There is beauty in the potential of what can be when we allow ourselves to have hope for the future,” the website reads.

This ritual only needed three white candles, but there were other bits I would not be able to gather at last minute, so instead my witch friend said a prayer for me at her own ritual.

You do not need to believe in paganism to use the Spring Equinox as a chance at new beginnings. Set some goals, make sure to take care of yourself, and let your creativity flow this year.