December commencement will return to two ceremonies

For the first time in eight years, Iowa State will hold two commencement ceremonies to honor students completing degrees during fall semester. A Graduate College ceremony will be held Friday evening, Dec. 15, and an undergraduate commencement ceremony will be held Saturday afternoon, Dec. 16. Both events will be at Hilton Coliseum to ensure unlimited seating for family members and friends.

In 2010, the university combined two December ceremonies into one.

Fall commencement ceremonies

Graduate College

  • Friday, Dec. 15, 7 p.m., Hilton Coliseum


  • Saturday, Dec. 16, 1:30 p.m., Hilton Coliseum

Interim university registrar Jennifer Suchan said the intent is to offer a better, more meaningful experience for students and their families. The change, she noted, is a logical response to recent student trends, including:

  • Eight years of steady enrollment growth
  • Climbing student retention and graduation rates
  • A higher percentage of graduating students who opt to participate in a university ceremony (not only a college convocation)

One outcome of all those positive trends was a December commencement ceremony that became increasingly long, last year exceeding three hours, Suchan said. In splitting it into two events, the goal is to host a 90-minute graduate ceremony and a two-hour undergraduate ceremony. That should enhance the commencement experience for both graduating students and their guests, she said.

Summer of vetting

During a May meeting of the university's commencement advisory committee, Suchan proposed separating the December event into two ceremonies -- with mixed feelings.

"As an institution, we see great value in having all of our students at one event, thereby allowing our undergraduates to envision themselves as graduate students," Suchan said.

Over the summer, advisory committee members continued to assess options and talk with stakeholders. Making adjustments, it sought and received approval for this plan, including from leaders in the Graduate College and provost and president's offices.

"We're excited about this change. We think our graduates and their families will enjoy the experience," Suchan said.

Stay tuned

Suchan said the commencement advisory committee is in a similar process of evaluating changes to the structure of the spring undergraduate ceremony, which moved outdoors to Jack Trice Stadium two years ago and lasted about 3.5 hours last May.