Most days, Mulligan’s Grill and Pub offers clubhouse food for university golf course patrons and the local community.
But Friday night, tuxedo- and gown-clad graduate students stepped through the restaurant’s doors and into a swanky Montenegro casino for dinner, dancing and martinis (shaken, not stirred) at the third annual Grad Prom.
About 130 students showed up for the Graduate Student Government-sponsored event, which was themed after the 2006 James Bond film Casino Royale. The attendance numbers topped last year’s, said Dirk Parham, GSG legislative affairs vice president, furthering the event mission of encouraging cross-campus communication.
“In graduate school, if you’re in a research lab, you only meet people in your lab,” GSG President Deborah Hemingway said. “You only meet people in your program and in your class, so we’re trying to give people a chance to make friends throughout campus to promote a community across campus.”
The doors opened at 8 p.m., and slowly but surely, graduate students arrived in their gowns and tuxedos. Students purchased tickets for $10 in advance but were able to buy them at the door for $15.
The event gave students a chance to mingle and discuss research with people outside of their departments. The first hour consisted mostly of students chatting near the cash bar or by the light buffet, but after 9 p.m., the lights dimmed and students headed to the dance floor. The event also included a photo booth.
Roozbeh Bakhshi, a first-year doctoral student studying mechanical engineering, said he came to interact with his peers in a casual setting.
“I’m a representative of my department in the GSG,” he said. “I wanted to come to check it out, and my fellow representatives convinced me it was fun and to come check it out, and so here I am.”
For other students, like Preeti Lakhole, the prom was a chance to take part in a tradition they didn’t get to experience in high school.
“I haven’t been to a prom personally myself because I was never in the culture of having a prom in high school or in college,” said Lakhole, who is also the GSG’s community development vice president and helped plan the prom. “It’s really exciting to see everyone dress up and see the theme.”
Jessica Bennett, a third-year doctoral student studying higher education, said the opportunity to take a break from her studies and get dressed up was a welcome one.
“It’s great to get snazzy for a night,” she said.
Grad Prom lacked the social pressures that accompany high school proms, Bennett said. Students were able to enjoy the event’s fun riding solo or accompanied by a date.
Though the term "prom" might seem a bit “high school” for some students, Bennett believes the term is meant more in a “joking way.”
“For a lot of graduate students, it’s been a long time since they’ve attended anything like prom, and it’s fun to kind of convey what the event is without the pressures of, like, a high-school prom,” she said. “I didn’t feel any pressure to come here with a date, whereas it would be completely different at a high-school prom.”