Fall graduate plagued by school policy

By Georgianna Pisano-Goetz II Contributing Alumni Writer

Students graduating early hoping to gain an edge on employment may be disappointed to find out they will not be hired until they have their physical diploma — which Franklin & Marshall College will not release to students until May.

I started the application for the Education Program in Korea (EPIK) in May 2013, more than six months before I would be graduating from F&M. I was in Chicago participating in an intensive, month-long TEFL course that would certify me to teach English as a foreign language. The application was long and arduous, as becoming a foreign resident and employee requires a lot of paperwork.

Luckily, I was in a great position because I already knew where and when I wanted to teach and had started the application early enough that I had plenty of time to get my documents together. I was working with Greenheart Travel, a channeler that would communicate between me and EPIK, the Registrar at F&M, and various federal agencies to get my paperwork done.

On top of classes, my senior seminar, and working, it was a stressful time. I turned in my application in August, interviewed over Skype in November and was accepted into EPIK the next day. I was relieved to have my post-graduate employment in order and incredibly excited to be leaving in February (two months after graduation) for South Korea.

I had notified EPIK in my initial application that I would not be graduating until December 2014, and they had given me until Jan. 15 to turn in an official, apostilled copy of my diploma. I blissfully worked through the end of the semester and was in constant contact with the Registrar checking on the status of my classes, grades, transcripts, and diploma.

I was in constant contact with the Registrar because, ever since I had decided, in the beginning of my junior year, to graduate in December, I had gotten a lot of mixed messages from the offices across campus who seemed to have subpar communication between and within the offices.

My transcripts had a “note” on them that indicated I would be graduating in December, but, when I applied to graduate, Spring 2015 was the only option. My Registrar liaison put another note in my file -— a note that other members of the Registrar would fail to see if I spoke with anyone other than my initial liaison. I had been notified before that F&M does not print diplomas in December but that I would be able to request a certified graduation “letter.”

The policy of not printing diplomas did not make sense to me, and I thought there was a possibility an exception could be made if I secured the employment first. My advisor at Greenheart Travel did not feel confident about the graduation letter, since EPIK’s requirements were based on international labor agreements that have little wiggle room. When December and January rolled around, I was again told the diploma was unavailable.

I reached out to President Porterfield, since I had been informed that I was accepted to EPIK but would not be able to leave in February if they did not receive an apostilled copy of my diploma. I soon found out from Mr. Alan Caniglia that it is part of F&M’s charter that they don’t print diplomas for December graduates until June.

What followed was a continuation of the miscommunicated mess in which a graduation letter was sent to Greenheart Travel that had not been apostilled and I had to get another copy sent to me so I could get it apostilled and send it in myself. The deadline passed, and I will not be leaving for Korea for another eight months, in August.

I have gone from quickly capitalizing on my graduated status to a scramble to find something worthwhile to do until I can go where I really want to be.

Did the college do everything it could? Yes. Despite miscommunication and a poor system, the Registrar, President Porterfield, and Alan Canigula worked with me to provide me with a special graduation letter that I could provide in lieu of my diploma.

But why was that everything that F&M could offer?

Because when it comes down to it, my alma mater prevented me from acquiring employment – and isn’t that kind of the point of college? I would suggest that F&M take a good, long look at why it can’t offer the best to its students and maybe try and change that outdated charter while they’re at it.

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