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Pending graduation causes feelings of excitement, nervousness

With graduation less than two weeks away, many seniors are feeling a mixture of excitement, sadness and anxiety as thoughts of the pending future send them on an emotional roller coaster.

For many, the happiness of walking across the stage May 15 at Commencement is measured against the realization that they are graduating soon and unaware of what the future holds. For others, anticipation is rising as they prepare for their next stage in life, which for many is graduate school. For all 300 or so students receiving their diploma this spring, the young and old, undergrads and grads alike, graduation itself represents successful completion of one important goal — earning a degree.

Senior Amanda Bailey and 94 year-old soon-to-be graduate Hazel Soares stand on stage in the Littlefield Concert Hall April 26 as they each recieve the Herringer Prize for Excellence from Professor of Art History Mary-Ann Milford. (Alixandra Greenman)

94 year-old Hazel Soares, an art history major, is one of the oldest women to ever graduate from a four-year university. Winner of the Herringer Prize for Excellence at last Monday’s Academic Awards Ceremony, Soares is also the College’s oldest graduate ever. She told the San Francisco Chronicle she is looking for a job after she graduates, one where she can use the skills and knowledge she acquired at Mills, perhaps as a docent in a museum.

“I have the endurance and I would totally put my heart into it,” she told the Chronicle. “I’ve put in my time and I do have the background for this kind of work, you know.”

While many graduates will spend the summer job hunting, public policy major Chloe Diamond is moving to New York to attend the Graduate School of Education at Columbia University in the fall to study education policy. She said she is eagerly and nervously awaiting her move to the East Coast, which promises not only a new educational environment, but a new cultural landscape as well.

“I have always wanted to live in New York. I am really excited, but it is going to be a big change, it makes me nervous,” Diamond said.  “It is a different coast, different city and different culture. I just hope that I adjust quickly.”

Although slightly less anxious than Diamond, fellow public policy major Bethan Lamb is also filled with mixed emotions surrounding her impending move to Massachusetts for graduate school at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

“I am terrified. I am looking forward to moving, but the whole idea is really scary,” said Lamb, who plans to study community health.

Lamb said she is mostly worried about the change in environments. Despite a semester-long study abroad stay in South Africa, she has always lived in the Bay Area. She grew up in Concord, 30 minutes away from Mills, so she has never known anything else. Still, she is looking forward to having a chance to experience a new place.

“I figured this was as good of an opportunity as any to get out of my comfort zone,” Lamb said.

Other seniors are worried because they do not know which aspect of their field of study they want to continue to pursue.

True said the difficulty of choosing a psychological research area and graduate program has led her to decide to remain in the Bay Area. The psychology major and philosophy minor said she will get an apartment and work in the Mills research lab, among others in the area, for about a year.

“Ideally, I would just like to have a year off, get myself situated, take my GRE’s and go back to school in the fall of 2012,” True said. “I am hoping that my work in Mills’ research lab and possibly other labs in the Bay Area will help me narrow down what area of research I want to go into.”

True said it is important to her to find her focus before committing to two more years of schooling.

“I think it would be really cool to go out of state … and experience something new. But what really matters is that I find a program that I want to do,” she said. “I really do not care if it is in Timbuktu or Hawaii.”

Still, like many seniors, True said she is comforted by the notion that, somehow everything will work itself out.

“Whatever happens, I am sure that it will not be a disaster,” she said.

The College’s 122nd Commencement ceremony will be held May 15 on Toyon Meadow. The day kicks off at 9:45 a.m. Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi will be the featured speaker.