In-person graduation events return


Editor's note, May 7: For weather reasons, the celebration for College of Engineering undergraduates has been moved to Hilton Coliseum Saturday with a 5 p.m. start. Doors open and student check-in begins at 3:30 p.m.


2015 file photo of DVM candidates

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine candidates (pictured in this 2015 archive image) and doctoral students from the other colleges will enjoy traditional commencement ceremonies in Hilton Coliseum Friday afternoon and evening. File photo by Christopher Gannon.

As the university transitions back to pre-pandemic traditions, Iowa State is preparing to host in-person graduation events this weekend for an estimated 5,094 students completing degrees this month. Another 761 students expecting to complete their degrees this summer have the option of participating, too.

Traditional indoor commencement ceremonies at Hilton Coliseum Friday, May 7, will honor professional veterinary medicine students (3 p.m.) and doctoral students from all other colleges (7 p.m.). Outdoor graduation celebrations at Jack Trice Stadium that include key components of graduation and omit some of the pomp are planned for master’s students (11 a.m. Friday) and undergraduates, by college, Saturday morning and afternoon. Events will last 45-90 minutes; guests will not need tickets to attend.

ISU registrar Jennifer Suchan said the sites were selected with the goal of unlimited attendance and keeping all participants safe. Cyclones Care protocols will be required at all events.

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"We are excited to celebrate our graduates and be able to offer an in-person event after the pandemic," she said.

Students seem to feel the same. Suchan said more than 4,200 spring and summer graduates have indicated they'll participate in person, including more than 3,600 bachelor's degree recipients. Both of those numbers shatter participation records from spring 2019.

All events will be livestreamed for students who attended Iowa State remotely this semester or perhaps don’t feel comfortable yet celebrating in person. In addition, prerecorded content will be available on the livestream site beginning Friday morning, including:

  • Graduation messages from the college deans.
  • Two videos that recognize by name the approximately 300 graduate students and 570 undergraduate students who confirmed by April 23 they wouldn't attend their event in person.

Outdoor celebrations

Undergraduate college celebrations, recognizing an estimated 4,333 spring graduates -- 260 to 790 at a time -- get underway at 9 a.m. Saturday. A college celebration will begin every 90 minutes, alternating between platforms on the stadium's east and west field tarmacs, with the final undergraduate celebration beginning at 4:30 p.m.

East stage:

  • 9 a.m., Agriculture and Life Sciences
  • Noon, Design
  • 3 p.m., Liberal Arts and Sciences

West stage:

  • 10:30 a.m., Business
  • 1:30 p.m., Human Sciences
  • 4:30 p.m., Engineering

Each celebration will include about 20 minutes of typical ceremony components: singing of the national anthem and "The Bells of Iowa State" by senior music major Olivia Hartman; welcoming remarks from President Wendy Wintersteen; recognition of students graduating with honors, distinction or military service; and conferring of the degree. Graduating students will process down to the platform to receive their diploma cover from their college dean, cross the stage as their name is read and pause to take a photo with the president.

Graduating students will be seated in center bleacher sections, and family members and friends can use the rest of the stadium to physically distance as they choose their seats. With the north exterior of the football stadium a construction zone for a few more months, only the east and south stadium gates will be open.

A single celebration honoring an estimated 499 spring master's degree candidates will have the same flavor as the undergraduate celebrations. It will begin at 11 a.m. Friday on the east side of Jack Trice Stadium. An inclement weather forecast 24 hours in advance would move the event indoors to Hilton with an earlier 10 a.m. start.

Suchan said inclement weather Saturday would postpone the undergraduate celebrations to Sunday (same location and times). If the Saturday weather offered the flexibility, her graduation team would try to limit the change to just the three morning events or just the afternoon celebrations. The graduation website and university homepage will provide weather-related updates.

Hilton ceremonies

An estimated 148 candidates receiving Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degrees this month will be honored during a 3 p.m. commencement ceremony Friday. During a 7 p.m. ceremony, an anticipated 114 spring Ph.D. candidates will be honored. The doctoral and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine ceremonies will be traditional commencement events, Suchan said, and include ISU graduation traditions such as pre-ceremony music by the ISU Brass Ensemble, processional, singing of the national anthem by F. Wendell Miller Distinguished Artist-in-Residence Simon Estes, hooding ceremony and commencement speakers. Distinguished Professor of chemistry Theresa Windus will address the doctoral candidates. Kristen Obbink, lead public health veterinarian at the Center for Food Security and Public Health, College of Veterinary Medicine, who also served this year as the university's COVID-19 public health coordinator, will address the DVM candidates.

Celebration in a box

The registrar's team prepared graduation celebration boxes for all spring and summer graduating students who care to pick up one. Each contains an Iowa State picture frame, postcard message from Wintersteen, ceramic Cy coaster, vehicle window decal, lapel pin, six-month digital membership to the ISU Alumni Association, diploma cover for students not attending their ceremony in person, commencement program and honor cords, if applicable.

The first day (April 12) the boxes were available for pick-up, 1,260 students showed up at the registrar's office for their gift.

"They're so thankful to the university and to President Wintersteen for offering an in-person event," Suchan said. "It was great to see their energy and their joy."