Michele Pratusevich


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June 6, 2013

MIT Graduation Cap

MIT has many interesting traditions. But my personal favorite is the tradition of MIT’s graduation hats. I had a lot of fun with this tradition, especially given the weather.

The term “walking at graduation” means a lot to someone who spent 4 years as an undergraduate at MIT. No matter what you studied or what extracurriculars you had, the 4 years you spent at MIT were hard. The last official thing you do with the Institvte is receiving your diploma at graduation, where the graduate wants to go out in style.

Now, the PhDs already go out in style. See their graduation regalia, courtesy of CapGown.com:

MIT PhD regalia

But the Bachelor’s regalia is all black and made of some kind of cheap plastic. To go out in style, what many undergraduates do is decorate their graduation caps with various items that are unique to them.

My graduation cap

I graduated with my Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science on June 6, 2013. The forecast for that day was 90% chance of rain. At least it was supposed to be 75 degrees F or so. A few years go, I had spent $5 on Amazon to buy an umbrella hat, just for fun. But the night before graduation, it seemed like I had made an amazing decision.

Michele in an umbrella hat

Because you see, I could just affix my umbrella hat to my graduation cap to cover my cap from the rain. The cap wasn’t very structural - it’s some black plastic covering over a cardboard cap.

Cap with an umbrella hat

However, I wasn’t sure it this would be (1) enough, or (2) quite indicative of me. So I decided to combine this with an idea that had started growing on me over the course of the past semester. I spent so much time in the White Mountains in New Hampshire with the [MIT Outing Club)(http://mitoc.mit.edu) that it felt almost natural to put a map of the White Mountains on my graduation cap. Together with a MITOC patch.

Map on cap

Map and patch

Of course, combine this with the umbrella hat and you have quite an exit.

Final graduation cap

Sea of caps

As you can see, not everyone has their caps decorated. It makes you feel that much more special. What happened to me was that the Dean of Student Life asked me to take my umbrella hat off my cap to not obstruct the view. I readily complied, not wanting to jeopardize actually walking at graduation. Hence the lack of umbrella hat in my graduation photo with mom and dad.

Graduation photo with mom and dad

All in all, I am quite happy with my unique graduation cap. Not as good as the graduated cylinder to measure the rainfall during the ceremony, but definitely very indicative of me.

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