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ND to change degree tradition

Kaitlynn Riely | Friday, February 23, 2007

The University will hold a separate commencement ceremony for Master’s and Ph.D. graduates from the Graduate School in May, breaking from its tradition of one ceremony for undergraduates and graduates.

University Registrar Harold Pace said Thursday the creation of a separate ceremony for graduate students – a decision made last semester – should shorten the undergraduate commencement on Sunday by approximately 30 minutes.

In past years, Pace said, the ceremony has run about two hours and 15 or 20 minutes. The ceremony this year should last under two hours, he said.

The change, while not widely publicized outside the Graduate School community, took place last fall. In a letter to the Graduate School community in November, University President Father John Jenkins said he made the decision to hold a separate ceremony along with Provost Tom Burish and Dean of the Graduate School Donald Pope-Davis.

Since this is the first time graduate students will receive degrees separate from the undergraduate commencement ceremony, “the unknown can be a little unnerving,” Jenkins said in the letter.

“I am very confident, however, that the new and separate ceremony will honor our graduate degree recipients in a more meaningful way than the Sunday main commencement,” he said.

The decision stemmed from suggestions of faculty members and deans of other colleges, he said.

The reason for the change, Jenkins said in his letter, was to create an event that could focus more on the accomplishments of the graduate students.

In the new ceremony, there will be time to recognize all doctoral and Master’s degree recipients. In addition, there will be time to present the Eli J. and Helen Shaheen Graduate School awards, rather than just listing aloud the winners as has been done in the past.

Graduate Student Union vice president Amber Handy echoed that reasoning in a posting on the Graduate School Web site. She emphasized that the change was made to set aside more time to honor graduate student accomplishments.

Another reason for the separate ceremony, Jenkins said in his letter, will be to have a keynote speaker that can speak more directly to the Master’s and Ph.D. recipients.

Pope-Davis will lead the ceremony and the deans of the colleges will announce the names of the degree recipients, according to information posted on the Graduate School’s Web site.

First Year of Studies Dean Hugh Page will deliver the invocation, and Jenkins will attend the ceremony.

The implications in terms of attendance changes aren’t clear yet, but fewer graduate students at the ceremony could mean more tickets allotted to each undergraduate, Pace said.

“We anticipate that outcome because there will be fewer graduate students attending,” Pace said. “That’s a great outcome for undergraduates.”

The Graduate School’s ceremony will be held May 19 at 1 p.m. in the Leighton Hall of DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.

Each graduate student will receive two guest tickets – and possibly three – depending on how many students will be attending. Leighton Hall seats approximately 900.

Graduate students can still attend the University commencement ceremony May 20 in the Joyce Center. But they will not walk across the stage or receive their degree at this ceremony.