Main content
Commencement 2012
Volunteers help the day run smoothly for people and events
Emory University volunteers set up chairs for commencement.

As a contract coordinator for the planning, design and construction unit of Campus Services, Robin Mitchell thrives on the frenetic energy of a campus that is constantly changing.

So during Commencement, you'll find her where she's most comfortable — amid the adrenaline-stoked pool of amateur shutterbugs clustered near the central stage in a space known as "the photo pit."

For most of her 14 years here at Emory, Mitchell has served alongside the 150 to 200 campus volunteers who help make Commencement flow smoothly each year. In fact, those volunteers are the critical behind-the-scenes fuel that help run the event, says Michael Kloss, executive director of the Office of University Events.

From ushers, ambassadors and "way-finders" to a posse of "chair wranglers" who set up, arrange and break down some 14,000 chairs on the Quad, Emory's volunteer workforce strives to help graduates and families have a "flawless experience," Kloss says.

"So many people are working well before sunrise to make sure that nothing gets in the way of an ideal graduation experience that has been building, in some families, for generations," Kloss says. "People really want to help — many of our volunteers come back year after year."

Mitchell coordinates a team of volunteers who manage the photo pit, where guests and family members will gather to nab a snapshot as Emory College graduates return to their seats after diploma presentation.

Think controlled chaos: thousands of parental paparazzi assembled in alphabetical order craning to get a glimpse of their graduate. Even though Mitchell assures that a professional photographer will get a great shot, she understands the urge to capture the moment themselves.

The job requires a delicate balance — make parents feel as welcome as possible, while letting them know there's a system. "It's got to be a very smooth-running machine, and most of the time, it goes beautifully," she adds.

Frenzied though it seems, Mitchell finds satisfaction in the work. "For me, it's very gratifying and grounding to annually remember why I'm here, and that is service to students. It's nice to be reminded that this is an important starting point for young people's lives."

Recent News