Commencement back to previous venue, ceremony expands

By Becky Schlikerman

More than 2,000 Columbia students will walk across the stage and graduate on May 17 and 18 at the UIC Pavilion, 525 S. Racine Ave.

Columbia officials expect 700 to 750 students at each of the three ceremonies and about 5,000 to 6,000 guests at each, said Mark Kelly, vice president of Student Affairs. Typically students bring an average of eight guests, he added.

“They’ll be very well attended,” Kelly said.

Although seating is first-come, first- served and commencement is not a ticketed event, there is no risk of being at capacity and running out of seats because the ceremonies have been split into three smaller sections, Kelly said.

However, Kelly said there is a pre-show during which students from the Music Department will play 45 minutes before commencement as people file in.

“If [people] want to see the pre-show and get better seats … come early so that they get their seats, get situated and take in the pre-show,” Kelly said. He said there isn’t a bad seat at the Pavilion.

The seating is informal, as is the dress code.

“For a graduate, since they’re in robes, I don’t want to say they can wear anything, but pretty much anything, because they’re in cap and gown,” Kelly said.

As for the audience, they can relax as well.

“It’s a festive, important occasion and there is a dress [code] that comes with that but it’s also a large venue and … it is an informal event in that you can come as you are,” Kelly said.

Graduates will be wearing robes that are black for undergraduates and silver for graduate students, said Marvin Cohen, director and registrar in the Records Office.

Whether a student receives a gold or silver tassel is determined by the last semester’s cumulative GPA, which must be a 3.5, Cohen said.

“[GPA] of course could change if this semester’s grades come in but we have no way of knowing,” Cohen said.

While guests file into the venue, graduates, who should arrive an hour early, will be lined up in the parking lot east of the Pavilion and prepare for the processional, Kelly said.

There will be signs, ushers and directions for the graduates, Kelly said.

“If the [students] get to the Pavilion, we’ll get them to where they need to go,” Kelly said.

Graduates march by major, with the graduate students first and the undergraduates following, and they don’t have to sit in any order. Instead, they can sit with friends, Kelly said.

The graduates will be called by major and degree, for example BFA or BA, and when they get near the stage they hand a card to the person reading their name and their name is announced.

On stage will be senior members of the administration, the department’s chair, members of the board of trustees, the valedictorian and the graduate student speaker, among others.

Graduates will also be greeted by Columbia President Warrick L. Carter, Chairman of the board of trustees Allen Turner, and other senior administrators.

After students receive the diploma jacket—the actual diploma can be picked up at the Advising Center at the Wabash Campus Center, 623 S. Wabash Ave., after graduation—they return to their seats and wait for the end of the entire ceremony.

Kelly expects each ceremony to be about 2 1/2 hours.

“We truly expect everyone to honor the ceremony by going back to their seat,” Kelly said. “The ceremony is not completed until everyone has crossed the stage.”

There are some differences between this year’s commencement and last year’s, Kelly said.

One major difference is that the ceremony is being held at the UIC Pavilion again.

“We’re thrilled we’re back at the Pavilion,” Kelly said.

Last year’s commencement was at Navy Pier and everyone agreed that it was a terrible place for a commencement because it’s “too big and cavernous,” Kelly said.

Also, the ceremonies will be somewhat shorter because there are three ceremonies instead of two.

Now all of the departments are divided into three different events and officials made sure that every school is represented at every ceremony, Kelly said.

For instance, every ceremony has academic departments from the School of Media Arts, the School of Fine and Performing Arts and the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Administrators also looked for some commonality between majors to bring “consistency to that group of students,” Kelly said. For example, theater, music and dance students are in the same ceremony, he said. But he said there were some limits to that because they had to equally distribute the number of graduates among the three ceremonies.

Some seniors, like Patrick Burnell, senior art and design major, are attending commencement to please parents.

Burnell said he is excited to graduate but that he is neutral toward the ceremony and his parents want him to walk. He plans on “going through the motions,” Burnell said.

“I figure it will be a couple-hour ordeal of them handing out booklets with no diplomas in them,” Burnell said.

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