An inside look into the history of Southeastern’s Grad Fair

The Grad Fair is an event organized every semester where graduating seniors can sign up for various activities leading up to their graduation.

“We host it every semester,” said Julie Perise, Interim Director of Alumni Association. “We partner with Gamma Beta Phi. They are still very involved and we basically co-host the event.”

Perise explains the history of the Grad Fair and about how it was formed. 

“It started years ago, and it was a project of Gamma Beta Phi,” said Perise. “Jackie Dale Thomas started it to provide a one-stop shop for graduation. They wanted to provide that for the students. Well, it got to be very difficult. They held it on South Campus in the Student Union and got to be very difficult for the students to get in and out of there. So, they decided to move it over here to the Alumni Center and we’ve held it over here for probably 12 years.”

Thomas was the Director of Leadership Development and was an integral part of Gamma Beta Phi.

“My involvement started in 2007-2008,” said Amanda Robbins, advisor of Gamma Beta Phi. “The event had been happening a decade before that. Jackie Dale Thomas was very involved in getting the program started. She was a Gamma Beta Phi advisor for 30 years. So, she had a very long history with the organization and with all of the programs they did.” 

The fair has developed over the years as more services were added to the mix.

“We have added different services over the years,” said Robbins. “Vendors that we thought would be helpful to our students. Some of those would be Liberty Mutual because the alumni has a relationship with them. The Lion Legacy program started participating four years ago, whenever the Lion Legacy campaign kicked off with selling their bricks and students who get to wear the special cords.” 

The university’s graduate program has also shown more involvement over the years.

“I think that we’ve added things such as the graduate school,” said Perise. “It is now a part of it. They try to speak to the graduating seniors about furthering their degrees and maybe coming back to get their Master’s degrees. Departments have become more involved in interacting with the graduates. So, it has grown over the years. It used to be a lot smaller with less people involved but it definitely has grown.”

Along with these additions, the fair is providing the usual services.

“The standard ones have been the bookstore to sell cap and gowns,” said Robbins. “Enrollment Services is always there to double check that the student’s diplomas are spelled correctly and that they will be sent to the right location. Balfour is the official ring sales representative. The Document Source will be there to sell announcements. The Candid Campus photographer, they’ll be there to take official portraits. So, there’s a lot of activities they can do on that day and I really hope that they leave feeling that we’re celebrating their graduation ‘cause it’s a big milestone.”

The graduating seniors are getting more involved with the fair as well.

“One thing that we’re proud of is that we usually have a 70 percent rate of graduating seniors that visit Grad Fair,” said Perise. “So, we feel like that’s a great number. We’re seeing that that’s definitely a benefit to them and they’re making every effort to be there.” 

Robbins believes the program could still grow and the students can be provided with more services in the future. 

“I would love to get some more departments involved in,” said Robbins. “Also, to connect them with specific alumni groups. Right now, they can sign up for an Alumni Chapter. I think it would be great if they could also be provided a way to connect with the alumni groups that are already formed.”

This semester, the fair is held on Mar. 8 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Mar. 9 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Alumni Center.