Last-Year Experience helps seniors say goodbye

Emilee Prinkki (left) and Esther Tagintsev (from left) enjoy the last few weeks of college at the 49 Days Party earlier this month at the Canyon Activity Center.

Decorative graduation caps. Senior pictures. The final days of classes.

But before graduation caps go flying, Student Affairs wants to make sure Grand Canyon University’s seniors are mentally and physically prepared to begin anew through its Last-Year Experience initiative, laying out the final 100 days for seniors with an online campaign.

The Last-Year Experience Committee, a collaboration of departments across campus, posts a story every 10 days on the Welcome Programs Instagram (@gcuwelcome) that addresses topics such as off-campus housing options and ways to reflect.

Maurice Riingen and Shannon Colgan (from left) gather supplies to decorate their caps at the 49 Days Party.

The initiative is for “seniors to have a good experience and for them to feel more prepared than maybe what they would have felt last year or last semester,” said Charity Norman, Director of Orientation and Transition (formerly named Welcome Programs). She also oversees The Last-Year Experience Committee.

Every week, the Office of Alumni Relations releases a Tim Talks podcast hosted by University Pastor Dr. Tim Griffin, who provides encouragement, wisdom and tools to help students -- including graduating seniors and recent graduates -- navigate life in the real world. Alumni Relations has released eight Tim Talks episodes that highlight the challenges and milestones that a GCU senior experiences in their final 100 days of college life.

The committee also has incorporated interactive ways for GCU students to wrap up their college years at various events.

At the start of the 100-day countdown in January, the committee hosted a launch party for Tim Talks. In March, the 49 Days Party on the Canyon Activity Center lawn brought seniors together for a bit of fun and nostalgia.

Outgoing Associated Students of GCU President Camden Marasco enjoys time with his fellow seniors at the 49 Days Party.

Lexi Noble, a 2022 alumna and the Student Program Specialist in Alumni Relations, said, “I think that this transition is so unique and that you’re an adult, but you’ve always had this structure, you’ve always had this set planning in your day to day, and graduating can be really, really scary. It’s not talked about that much, so, hopefully, this Last-Year Experience helps students feel at ease and feel supported and encouraged in taking that next step in finding their career.”

Mona Keomisy, a marketing senior on The Last-Year Experience Committee, said, “Honestly, it’s been such an experience that I don’t think I can get anywhere else.”

Keomisy designed a Stampede sticker to represent senior style.

“Being able to express my ideas and skills, and seeing it come to life, is really what I look forward to, and now that it is right in front of me, especially the Stampede cans, that’s really what I want to see, my work come to life.”

Andrea Barrios shows off a Stampede can honoring GCU's graduating seniors.

The rush of senior events continues in the last few weeks of the semester. The senior focus at The Gathering on Tuesday and The Lopes Launch Senior Sendoff on Thursday were two events students were able to savor with their community.

Senior Kaycie Corbett said, “answering those questions that we have makes me feel more comfortable about graduating and going out into the real world.”

At the 40-day mark, The Last-Year Experience Committee collaborated with Residential Life, Spiritual Life and the College of Theology to create the four stages of goodbye.

The intention is “to help the students mentally prepare, to prepare their hearts to leave, go and revisit the places that were most special for you and really embrace the fact that this has been a really impactful experience, and it’s about to be done,” Norman said.

For Keomisy, this initiative for seniors has been a way, ultimately, to help students reflect on their accomplishments and remind them that they have come a long way since their first day at GCU.

Career Services' Arriel Pilapil at the 49 Days Party.

She said, “A lot of us got our graduation taken away from us in high school. This is our time that we should reflect and be thankful.”

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GCU seniors can find online resources here, from “8 Simple Steps for Graduation Seniors” to the 100 Days Countdown Calendar to a Commencement checklist and job postings.

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Related Stories:

GCU News: Seniors’ faith on display at Design Showcase

GCU News: Seniors worship together for final time at Chapel

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