Master’s Degree Hoods Are Not Actual Hoods

Every year, I assist the VIP people at work with getting their regalia on. When you are an academic VIP, your commencement ensemble comes with a variety of head wear (tam or mortarboard), a very heavy robe with velvet trim, fancy ropes, and a hood. The robe and hat aren’t too complicated but the hood is designed for men and requires the person to wear a button up shirt so that you can tuck the hood into the robe correctly, more or less. If you are a woman and not wearing a buttoned shirt, some guerrilla tactics involving a safety pin are needed to secure the hood to the robe.

Then it has to be adjusted so that it hangs down the back just so. If you haven’t secured the hood correctly, half way through commencement, it will start to choke you. The hood is so complicated to wrangle that there are  YouTube videos demonstrating how to attach it correctly.

When you get your regalia on correctly, you will look something like Christopher Columbus, minus the breeches, especially if you wear a tam, which is right out of 15th Century Italy.

Besides the intricacies of wearing the hood, there are a bewildering number of color combinations that appear in the hood. Even at the same school and the same commencement ceremony, there will be quite a representation. This is because the colors symbolize the school, what your degree is in, and any honors. It also seems like the hoods for master’s and doctorate’s are different in size, doctoral being larger.

The funny thing about the academic hood is that it doesn’t appear to be able to be worn like a hood at all. I’ll have to wait until I graduate in three, or so, years, but it really doesn’t look like you can reasonably cover your head with it.

I digress…

The point is, although this is my fourth year assisting others with their regalia, this is the first year where I can say for certain that I will be on that stage in the future. It may take just as long to get my master’s as it took to get my undergrad but it will happen and that is a wonderful feeling. Now, back to work.

This is the ceremonial mace. Goes back to the times when noble men had to carry these around to defend themselves against hooligans. These days it’s a sign of authority and accomplishment. It’s heavy, very heavy; sort of like the weight of the responsibility not to mess up your life and be worthy of the degree you just earned.

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