University event celebrates the ‘pride’ of graduation

At GradFest, seniors can fill out last-minute orders for commencement caps and gowns.


Seniors get their GradFest passport stamped at the Senior Glass Gift table at last year’s GradFest in Mitten Hall. | COURTESY / JOSEPH V. LABOLITO

With graduation approaching, many seniors are experiencing the stress and excitement of life after their undergraduate degree.

Mike Salzarulo, a senior electrical engineering major, said his college experience has been hectic with lots of ups and downs. He said a lot is up in the air in terms of what comes next in his life, but he’s excited to pursue a professional engineering career.

“It feels good to be graduating soon,” Salzarulo said. “I’m excited to pursue a real job, make big-boy money and have some more free time.”

For students like Salzarulo, the university created GradFest, an annual celebration for graduating seniors marking 50 days until university commencement. GradFest 2018 will be held on March 21 in Mitten Hall. The event will run from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. and will offer students a place to celebrate their undergraduate achievements and look forward to future professional accomplishments.

The event is hosted by the Office of Alumni Relations, which works to connect Temple students and graduates in the Temple University Alumni Association to provide networking opportunities.

Students attending GradFest will get to participate in a champagne toast and enjoy a cake made by Baker Dave. Baker Dave, whose real name is Dave Okapal, is the Temple pastry chef known for his intricate cakes, like the one-ton sheet cake in the shape of the Temple “T” he baked in 2012.

At GradFest, seniors can also fill out last-minute orders for commencement caps and gowns and pick up a limited edition Class of 2018 T-shirt available exclusively at GradFest. A DJ will play at the event and students can play games like cornhole and life-size Jenga.

Representatives from the university’s Career Center plan to set up a table at GradFest, where students can receive a comprehensive review of their LinkedIn profiles. Experts will ensure students’ photos, resumes and skills put them in the best position for employment while applying for jobs.

Karen Demmler, a career coach in the Career Center, said that LinkedIn profiles are an important factor in hiring.

“Nine out of 10 employers look at your LinkedIn profile as a factor of whether they’re going to interview you or not,” Demmler said. “Make sure yours looks great.”

GradFest has many free treats. This year, there will be a cake made in the shape of a graduation cap. | COURTESY / JOSEPH V. LABOLITO

Michael Minetti, the director of student and young alumni engagement, said the opportunity to talk to students about their careers is exciting for Temple alumni. They enjoy providing professional resources to students, like the chance to spend a day job shadowing in an office.

Minetti added that he thinks alumni are grateful for their own Temple experiences and aim to pay it forward.

TUAA has an alumni network of more than 300,000 people across all 50 states and in 143 countries. TUAA is made up of 23 chapters, with 17 located in cities in the United States, like New York City and Washington D.C. There are also six international chapters in cities like Beijing and Tokyo.

Minetti said GradFest is a culminating point of the undergraduate experience. It marks the point of transition from being a student to becoming a member of the university’s alumni.

“Seniors can come and feel that sense of pride where they’re like, ‘Wow, I’m 50 days away from something I’ve worked hard on for three-and-a-half years,’” Minetti said. “The goal of graduating college is also something people have been thinking about their whole lives.”

“Students come [to Temple] and it takes four years to become a nurse or a journalist or learn engineering,” he added. “It also takes a while for you to learn to become a good alumni. It’s not something people just automatically understand and know what to do.”

Minetti said successful Temple alumni are involved with events happening on campus and continue to interact with the university through social media. He added a key part of the alumni experience is participating in the Office of Alumni Relations’s larger initiatives like Global Days of Service, Alumni Weekend and Homecoming.

Global Days of Service, which will be held at the end of April, consists of students, alumni, staff and faculty dedicating a week to volunteer opportunities addressing global health, the environment and hunger initiatives. Volunteers can work in soup kitchens, food banks, city gardens and other locations across the U.S. and internationally.

Students attending GradFest will have access to special $20 tickets for Alumni Weekend, which takes place in May. Alumni Weekend tickets are available at this discounted price exclusively at GradFest. The usual price is $45.

A 2017 senior has her LinkedIn profile reviewed by the Temple University Career Center at last year’s GradFest. | COURTESY / JOSEPH V. LABOLITO

Students attending GradFest can learn more about these initiatives and how to get involved from Office of Alumni Relations staff at the event.

Minetti said Temple’s extensive alumni network shows the university’s collective aspiration to transforming lives. He said the power of TUAA lies in its willingness to help students jumpstart their careers.

“It’s not just about coming here and growing, learning and making yourself better,” Minetti said. “Part of Temple’s mission is making sure we always look back and connect that attitude to help others.”

“I always ask the hypothetical question, ‘Did an alumni help you get your first internship as a student?’” Minetti said. “If they did, you should pay that back to a student. If they didn’t, when you’re five or 10 years down in your career and you can do that for someone, shouldn’t you do that because someone didn’t do that for you?”

He added that outreach and support from alumni can make a huge difference to students.

Salzarulo said he’d be interested in connecting with future Temple students down the road as an alumni because of the welcoming environment he experienced at school.

“Everyone at Temple was really inviting and welcoming,” he said. “Temple professors are very welcoming and really eager to help.”

Seniors can register online now for GradFest 2018.

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