As another academic year nears its end, Augustana prepares to bid farewell to its graduating seniors. Commemorating their achievements is the annual commencement ceremony, to be held for the second consecutive year in the Elmen Center.

This year’s commencement ceremony celebrates a total of 352 graduates, including 11 Master of Arts.  Of this group, only 42 will complete their degree requirements by December, meaning they will return for an additional semester in the fall.

Overall, the class of 2014 is distinguished by its academic record.

According to Kruger, the number of students graduating with honors this year has increased by nine.  Augustana’s high post-graduate job placement rate (98 percent among the class of 2012, according to a recently released report) is another hallmark of the students’, and the school’s, success.

Despite such impressive figures, Augustana’s dwindling class sizes in the past two years have also prompted questions about a decrease in the school’s retention rate. Krueger attributes this in part to a decrease in freshman admissions, but also believes the problem warrants attention.

“First, the previous class was larger to begin with, and secondly, it had a larger first to second year retention rate,” Krueger said. “It shows the vitality of keeping that retention rate as high as possible.”

In any case, commencement itself has remained well-attended.  For last year’s ceremony, administration opted to switch from an off-campus venue to the Elmen Center. The new space offered several challenges–namely  how to accommodate all the attendees.

“It was tricky to know about capacity last year as well as how to set up the seating,” Krueger said.  “We found that too many people came [and there didn’t seem to be enough seats].”

To address this issue, the seating layout was altered and the number of tickets graduates are allowed to request for friends and family was capped at 16.

Due to a number of perceived advantages, Krueger envisions keeping commencement on campus for most of the foreseeable future.

“It was always sad to think about families coming for commencement weekend might not even step foot on campus.,” Krueger said. “This way the students can celebrate the place they have called home with their families.”

For seniors, the arrival of graduation occasions many reminisce about their time at Augustana.  Julia Blue, a senior biology major who also will be this year’s senior speaker, has appreciated both a “comradely feeling” with her fellow students, and learning opportunities that extend beyond the campus.

“Hands down, I’ve loved my experience,” she said. “It’s been fabulous. Last J-term I went abroad with the choir. You get to experience things that you never would be able to in a classroom.”

A nursing major from Ethiopia, senior Meti Terefe feels that she has gained “an open mind” to complement her occupation skills.

“It was a learning experience,” Terefe said. “I got to meet amazing people and experience a new culture … I feel I have grown as a person.”

For Krueger, watching these members of the “Augustana Family” leave with their diplomas makes commencement day her “favorite day.”

“Don’t forget though, the word commencement actually means ‘the beginning’,” Krueger said. “So, enjoy this new beginning you [the seniors] have created for yourself.”