Graduation weekend changes intended to improve everyone's experience

Improving the graduation experience for students, their families and friends is the intent behind changes to the undergraduate colleges' recognition events this May. College deans and President Steven Leath have approved the changes, proposed by a working group that in July began its review of commencement weekend.

A key change assigns time in Hilton Coliseum for four of the six undergraduate colleges to recognize their students without a limit on guest numbers. In some cases, colleges had outgrown the convocation spaces they were using and were unable to accommodate all the family members and friends who hoped to attend. The four colleges – Agriculture and Life Sciences, Business, Human Sciences, and Liberal Arts and Sciences – will hold events up to 90 minutes long in Hilton Friday afternoon and evening and Saturday morning.

The colleges of Engineering and Design, where the tradition is to host smaller, informal events according to department or program, will continue to hold those events in their college spaces.

School's out at noon

Two broader scheduling changes will support the college events at Hilton. Final exams will conclude by noon on Friday, and the Graduate College's commencement ceremony will move from Friday evening to Thursday evening.

Senior associate registrar Jennifer Suchan said Iowa State's enrollment growth has impacted both college and all-university graduation events, with more graduates attracting more guests and adding to their length. She said the evolution of college events in some cases created confusion for families about which event truly was their student's "graduation."

So, some graduation traditions that had crept into the college events instead will be reserved for the all-university graduation ceremonies. These include:

  • Caps and gowns (graduating students should dress in business professional attire for their college events)
  • Keynote speaker
  • Conferring of diplomas/diploma covers
  • Identifiers such as commencement, graduation or ceremony

Schedule of events

The spring schedule of college recognition events is:

Friday, May 6 (all at Hilton Coliseum)

  • Human Sciences: 2 p.m.
  • Business: 5 p.m.
  • Liberal Arts and Sciences: 8 p.m.

Saturday, May 7

  • Agriculture and Life Sciences: 8:30 a.m., Hilton Coliseum
  • Design: 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m., organized by degree program, College of Design Building
  • Engineering: 8:30-11 a.m. (various times and campus locations), nine convocations organized by department

The three university ceremonies are:

  • Graduate commencement ceremony, Thursday, May 5 (7:30 p.m., Hilton Coliseum)
  • (Unchanged) Veterinary Medicine commencement ceremony, Saturday, May 7 (noon, C.Y. Stephens Auditorium)
  • (Unchanged) Undergraduate commencement ceremony, Saturday, May 7 (1:30 p.m., Hilton Coliseum)

Suchan said the registrar's staff also is looking at options for tweaking the commencement ceremonies – for example, the processionals, number of speakers, logistics for conferring degrees -- with an eye on trimming the ceremony duration.

"We'll continue to look for ways to refine and improve the experience for our students, their families and friends," she said.

The graduation working group included registrar Laura Doering, associate provost and Graduate College dean David Holger and deans Pam White (Human Sciences) and David Spalding (Business).