May 23, 2011

Thanks, volunteers, for making it happen

Two years ago, Tasmim Anwar strode up the aisle on Homewood Field to receive a bachelor’s degree in applied math and statistics. She described the day as “momentous.”

In fact, she enjoyed the experience so much she came back for more. The following May, Anwar returned to Homewood Field on commencement day, this time to help show others the way.

Anwar, an assistant director in the Whiting School’s Office of Development and Alumni Relations, volunteered as a guide for the event, which combines the universitywide and Homewood undergraduate ceremonies. In her role, she pointed students to robing rooms and families and guests to the field, and, in general, made sure people knew where to go. During the ceremony, held on a hot Baltimore day, she also handed out water bottles to those in need of heat relief.

Each commencement, hundreds of volunteers like Anwar are needed to make the day a success, according to Jill Williams, who is associate director of university events at Johns Hopkins and is responsible for the commencement ceremony.

“It takes approximately 200 Johns Hopkins volunteers to pull off such a tremendous and enormous event as commencement,” Williams said. “So much support and assistance are needed to keep things running smoothly, both on the field and behind the scenes.”

The volunteer roles include greeters, ushers, campus guides, golf cart drivers, parking attendants, luncheon reception staff and greeters at the remote-webcast sites (Bloomberg and Shriver halls). There’s even an “anything” category, which is as the name implies. The volunteers work in tandem with Campus Security, Plant Operations and the University Events Office.

Volunteers typically arrive at 6:30 a.m. and leave at 2:30 p.m. To make sure that visitors can spot them, they even get a uniform, which this year will be a white polo shirt and a blue cap.

Looking back at her first commencement as a volunteer, Anwar said that she took her role very seriously, and had fun at the same time.

“It’s such an important day,” she said. “I really liked what I did, asking people if they needed any help or assistance.”

This year, Anwar has a different job:  She’ll be greeting guests choosing to watch the ceremony via webcast in Shriver Hall.