“One more song! One more song!”
Fat globs of sweat stream down our faces as we chant for the performers to play one more song. If we are successful, we will probably insist on yet one more. Adrenaline and maybe alcohol pulse through our veins. Our friend group is an island surrounded by an undulating sea of thousands of other Princeton alumni. A Reunions dance party is a rare and special moment, and we want to extend it as long as possible; after these three summer nights, we will have to wait a whole year for another Reunions.
Except, perhaps unbeknownst to the undergraduate alumni around us, we are the Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni (APGA). And rather than returning to campus for a major reunion once every five years like most undergraduate alumni, graduate alumni are all invited back to experience a major reunion every single year.
“It’s one of the best parties in the world. I try to go every year,” says Mike Carlson *16.
During our schooling, many graduate students are in different spots in our lives than our undergraduate counterparts. We are often older, some of us worked before going back to school, and we may already have a general sense of our career paths. But Reunions is different: The discrepancy between the undergraduate and graduate experience lessens considerably. The APGA tent is smack-dab in the center of campus, next to Cuyler Hall. We host and attend lectures in our beer jackets and class blazers, dress up in silly costumes to march in the P-rade, marvel at the magnificent fireworks, participate in the service events, and stay out dancing until the tents close.
Noemí de la Puente *86 s*89 notes that, “the most interesting thing for me is the P-rade because it is like time lapse photography as I watch everyone march by. I see the historic diversification of the University unfold and it is always touching to see my small place in all of it.”
But there are some differences between the undergraduate and graduate experiences at Reunions. The undergraduate life seems punctuated with traditions — the shared repetition of songs, chants, and superstitions helps to build a sense of community, and the shared experiences create shared meaning. Candidly, some of the traditions remain unfamiliar to me: I still do not know all the words to “Old Nassau,” and before marching in the P-rade every year, the APGA tent attempts to learn the locomotive (and we still struggle to get it right).
But plenty of graduate students spend longer on campus than any undergraduate student will, which gives us time to create our own traditions. And that applies to Reunions as well. We start on Thursday evening with a toast to all the graduate students who have completed their generals in the previous year. This year, on Thursday evening, the APGA tent will continue building out a tradition with its second annual drag show featuring Princeton alumni as performers, emphasizing APGA’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. On Friday evening, the APGA tent will once again feature musical performances co-hosted with the Asian American Alumni Association of Princeton (A4P), the Association of Black Princeton Alumni (ABPA), and the Association of Latino Princeton Alumni (ALPA) — performances that are open to the entire alumni community. On Saturday, after all the tents close, the graduating master’s students from SPIA throw a party in the Fountain of Freedom for all graduate alumni.
Our traditions are helping us to build a Princeton-wide graduate alumni identity that expands beyond our department-specific identities. Reunions lets us work side-by-side at service projects, march together in the P-rade, join in on programming and interesting lectures, and dance the night away with friends old and new.
I personally am looking forward to celebrating my 10th reunion this year with classmates flying in from all over the world, some of whom I have not seen since Commencement. Even a decade after graduation, my graduate school classmates are still some of my closest friends, and every year, some subset of us gathers at Reunions to catch up in the place where we first met.
“Even when work has taken me abroad, Reunions has been an opportunity to reconnect with friends for life,” says Chris Johnson *13.
Hassan Noura *13, who attended Princeton as an international student and has lived in Dubai and Melbourne since graduation, spells out what he is most looking forward to this year: “It is a beautiful trip down memory lane — a chance to reconnect with old friends and celebrate a special bond and time of life that we shared with each other. And it is a weekend of great conversations … it is good to exchange notes, hear people’s stories, and learn from their journeys.”
So, for all you graduate alumni out there, I have a challenge for you: Come help us build these graduate alumni traditions and be a part of what makes the Reunions experience so meaningful. It felt good to be back in person at Reunions 2022, and APGA is expecting an even larger turnout this year. And if you do join us, after a day of reconnecting with old classmates, making new friends, and embracing all the silliness that is Reunions, I hope you also join us on the dance floor to sweat it out and keep calling for one more song.