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Senior Formal sparks new Emory tradition

One day in November 2023, as Neha Murthy was preparing for her last winter break as an Emory undergraduate student, she suddenly realized she wasn’t ready to graduate. But why?

She knew the feeling wasn’t about her grades. And, like many seniors, she had checked her transcript to confirm she was on track to complete any remaining requirements before graduation.

Still, she felt something was off in her otherwise intellectually and socially fulfilling Emory experience.

Then the idea came to her.

“That’s what’s missing,” thought Murthy. Her classmates, the Class of 2024, entered college during the pandemic, unable to share some important traditions as a community of first-year students.

“I was not ready to graduate without an opportunity for us to dress up and socialize together as a community for one last hurrah before we parted ways and began writing the next chapter of our lives,” she says now.

Murthy, who graduated with her bachelor’s degrees in quantitative social science and French studies, was concluding her service as president of the College Council. She reached out to other student leaders in her class and, together, they formed an event planning committee.

“Our goal as the planning committee was to further unify the Class of 2024 as a community and share a special moment with old and new friends among our classmates,” Murthy says. “No matter the unique challenges we faced as incoming students, today we have a shared Emory home, and we deserved a shared Emory experience to culminate our time together.”

Expanding that goal, the planning committee chose not to focus solely on a one-time Senior Formal for the Class of 2024. As their mission statement reads, the team was committed to “fostering a sense of community that transcends time, laying the foundation for a unified tradition for generations of Emory students.”

A tradition is inaugurated

A few months later, the planning committee’s labors bore fruit, with the support of Student Involvement, Leadership and Transitions, a part of Campus Life. The Senior Formal was well-received by the Class of 2024, with nearly 900 attendees filling the multipurpose room in the Emory Student Center. Although the event was promoted as a formal, the committee encouraged students to wear attire that made them feel comfortable.

The event, exclusively for graduating Emory undergraduate students, featured a DJ, buffet and a photo booth. The Senior Formal was sponsored by the College Council, Student Alumni Association, Student Government Association and Wonderful Wednesday.

“Our classmates were incredibly excited even before attending the event,” says Roy Chang, a planning committee member who majored in quantitative sciences in economics and human health. “A lot of people were getting dressed up in suits and gowns, taking ‘prom’ pictures.

“It was a very heartwarming experience walking around the Senior Formal and seeing everyone dressed up for the evening,” Chang adds. “There were a bunch of comments about how our event ‘felt like a prom,’ which is exactly the goal we were going for.”

Murthy is also pleased with the gathering’s success.

“It was so nice to see my old friends and my new friends all enjoying the space we shared that wonderful evening. I believe we all felt that sense of community as the Class of 2024, and that was our goal as the planning committee,” she says.

Sona Davis, an anthropology and human biology major who also served on the planning committee, agrees. “It was surprising to witness the collective excitement we all shared just to be together. The strong sense of community at our Senior Formal was a delightful surprise.

“Our Senior Formal provided a space to celebrate our life’s journey and create lasting memories together as we embark on the next leg of that journey,” Davis adds. “Having dedicated much of my four years at Emory to programming events on campus, Senior Formal stands out as my absolute favorite.”

This year marked the university’s 179th Commencement, with generations of graduating classes having embraced Emory’s numerous traditions in their time on campus. But, historically, few classes enjoy the distinction of inaugurating a tradition for their contemporary university community and bequeathing it to countless generations to come. The Emory Class of 2024 is now among that select few.

“It’s so exciting to start this new tradition,” says Chang. “There’s so much potential to elevate Senior Formal that I can hardly wait to see where future graduating classes take this event in the years to come.”

Photos by Tina Chang, Emory Campus Life.

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