When the DJ instructs the crowd to “give it up for the educated people on top of the bar,” a few people chuckle, but most do as they’re told. People standing atop an Irish bar on a Saturday night are not typically characterized as the smart ones in the crowd, but tonight is a notable exception. The half-dozen or so youngsters above the McFadden’s crowd are all recent—very recent—college grads. Their commencement was earlier that day, at the Thomas & Mack Center at UNLV.
Celebration is a given.
First comes a beer-chugging contest. Competition is fierce. These are college kids after all, which means they are likely well-versed in the art of drinking cheap beer at an alarmingly fast pace. Second comes a beer bong. Then the free shots on the dancefloor. Sometime after that the staff busts out a folding table for an impromptu game of flippy cup. After that, well, nobody here is taking notes anymore. They are done with notes ... and textbooks ... and exams ... and professors ...
Tomorrow will surely bring A+ hangovers, not to mention the sobering grown-up tasks of job searches and paying off student loans. Julia Peterson, who just earned a bachelor’s from UNLV’s dance department, concedes while waiting for the bartender to fill her order that this is a scary time to graduate. Jobs are tough to come by, and being part of the school’s largest graduating class ever (2,873 students!) only serves as a reminder of how much competition awaits in the real world. Then again, being enrolled in a higher-education system on the verge of collapse wasn’t exactly a reassuring place to be either.
“I was really worried about cuts,” she says. “I feel like I am getting out at the right time.”
Peterson is now headed to Chicago for a summer dance intensive, beyond which she has no definite plans. And for tonight at least, that’s perfectly fine.