the exciting mail I received the other week came in two fancy, important-looking black tubes. in one was a diploma conferring upon me a Master of Arts degree, the other a smaller but just-as-full-of-heavy-black-lettering Graduate Certificate in Publishing and Editing. they are all rolled and curly from living in fancy, important-looking black tubes.
my undergraduate diploma of so many years back did not come in a fancy black tube. all it has to live in is a cardboard envelope. last week I dug it out of a box in the basement so I could lay the two lovely official things next to each other. they aren't remarkably alike in lettering style, logo, or paper size, but the line breaks and language are pretty similar, especially at the end.
after announcing their respective institutional authority and conferring upon this Amelia girl whatever particular degree, each flimsy little slip of paper adds something like: "...with all the rights, responsibilities, honors and privileges which accompany blah blah blah..."
what are all those things, I wonder? what does all that mean, really?
I suppose have the right to call myself an alumna of these two educational dominions. the right to attend even more and more and more grad school. the responsibility to represent my colleagues, this field, and academia in general as well as I can manage. the responsibility of thinking a little more closely and thoroughly about my words and writing. the honor and privilege of associating quite closely with other dedicated, intelligent, and educated folks.
and the right, responsibility, honor, and privilege of hopefully being able to usefully pass along some fraction of all the things I have learned. maybe I can make the world a better place for a handful of my students or friends or beloved. I'll try, anyway.