Special to Mustang News
It’s that time of year again.
Graduation is less than a week away. It’s one of Cal Poly’s most academically rich traditions, and with the big day fast approaching, there are still gaps in information about commencement and what it entails.
Here’s the skinny, so seniors can get back to important questions such as “Why did I ever pick this for my senior project?”
Graduation times two
Whether your graduation date is set for June 14 or 15, it will be broken into two parts: the university-wide ceremony and the college or department-specific ceremony.
According to Tessa Stevens, director of Parent and Family Programs and Commencement, the university-wide commencement is scheduled for 9 a.m. and will last approximately 60-90 minutes from processional to recessional, located in Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
After that point, it will be up to individual colleges or departments to decide when and how they will conduct their smaller ceremonies, but nothing should begin later than 11:15 a.m.
This leaves students approximately one hour to reconvene with their families, find friends, hug, take photos and rejoice before heading in different directions for their college or department festivities.
In a Mustang News survey of Cal Poly’s eligible grads, 65 percent of seniors said they were planning on attending the university-wide commencement ceremony, 12.2 percent said they were not planning on attending, 17.9 percent said they were still undecided and 4.7 percent said they had no idea it was a choice.
Whether it’s both, one or none, it’s good to be informed about what goes on at each ceremony.
At the university-wide ceremony, students will:
- Use their seven commencement tickets to allow guests into the stadium
- Walk into the stadium in the university-wide processional
- Hear Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong’s address, as well as speeches from a Board of Trustees member, honorary degree recipient and keynote speaker
- Have their degrees verbally conferred to them by Armstrong
- Turn their tassels
At the college or department ceremony, students will:
- Not need tickets, so no cap on the number of guests that can attend
- Be in the exclusive company of students from their college or major
- Enjoy a relaxed and personalized environment
- Have their names individually called and accept certificates from an esteemed member of the faculty for their college
“University-wide” is a loose term here, as only three colleges will graduate their seniors on Saturday, with the other three colleges holding their ceremony on Sunday. Visit the Student Affairs website to determine which day you graduate and which of your peers will be there with you.
Changes to the university-wide ceremony
Many seniors who were undecided or set on not attending either ceremony indicated that no amount of pomp and circumstance would be worth being bored to tears in the hot June sun.
If this sounds familiar, Stevens is sure this year will be unlike any other.
“This year’s ceremony will include several new and exciting elements that we hope all the grads and guests enjoy,” Stevens said.
She explained the changes have come from recently formed commencement policy and operations committees, which have been working together to reinvent many of commencement’s traditional experiences.
“By gathering and incorporating feedback from all over campus from students, faculty, staff and parents, we are really focusing on making the student experience more exciting and memorable,” Stevens said.
What exactly are these wonderful changes?
“(Grads) will have to attend to see,” she said.
The keynote speaker
It is a long-standing tradition to have a keynote speaker send college graduates off with words of wisdom and advice for the future. This year, Cal Poly’s keynote speaker will be one who is particularly well-suited for such a job: Keith Ferrazzi.
The New York Times bestselling author of “Never Eat Alone,” Ferrazzi is a strong advocate for networking, being authentic and reaching long-term goals.
“We’re really pleased to have him,” Stevens said. “He is a really informative and transformational speaker.”
Armstrong is also positive about Ferazzi’s invitation to speak this year.
“The other speakers (from past years) have been good, but we were looking for something new this year,” Armstrong said. “We were looking for someone who would come on that you’ll really remember.”
Not every university can land a big name like Michael Bloomberg, Harvard’s 2014 graduation keynote speaker, or President Barack Obama, this year’s speaker for University of California, Irvine.
Stevens explained different universities have different ways of securing speakers. They either have dedicated funding sources, high commencement fees or tuition costs. If the speaker is appearing voluntarily, the university may have a tie or past relationship with the speaker.
According to Stevens, no portion of Cal Poly’s $50 commencement fee is allocated toward getting a keynote speaker. Instead, it goes toward materials rentals, landscaping, lighting, sound and printing and mailing each graduate’s diploma.
For those wondering how the Anteaters managed to persuade the president to travel to California, UC Irvine media relations director Cathy Lawhon said all it took was writing a letter.
“Former president Lyndon B. Johnson dedicated the land under UC Irvine in 1964,” Lawhon said. “This year marks 50 years from that milestone, so we decided to ask the current president if he would come and bring things full circle.”
California State University, Chico’s speaker this year is Bob Linscheid, the outgoing chair of the CSU Board of Trustees. Pepperdine University, whose students pay almost four times the tuition of Cal Poly, lined up Zev Yaroslavsky, Los Angeles County’s 3rd district supervisor.
Perhaps the best insight that can be given about what to expect from graduation comes from those who have experienced it themselves.
Cal Poly graduate Hannah Brott said a lack of organization in both the university-wide and department-specific graduation ceremonies made things a little “chaotic.” She also said the lack of communication beforehand to graduates about what to expect was frustrating, but mostly she had a very positive view of the whole day.
“I don’t think there are many days more exciting than the day you graduate college, especially from Cal Poly,” Brott said. “Both ceremonies complemented each other well, and they’re both important to have, but the department one was my favorite part. I also thought the #CalPolyProud hashtag was a great idea because it let me look back at the pictures that other people took that day.”
Brott’s mother Teri, who also attended both ceremonies, said she was impressed by the organization and ambiance of the entire event.
“It was very well-planned, upbeat and exciting and seemed to progress smoothly,” Teri said. “I was impressed at how excited and mature the graduates were — no bullhorns or obnoxious behavior … I enjoyed the speakers and the various events planned throughout; they showed pride.”
“Be on the lookout for emails from the commencement office,” Stevens said.
A few emails have already been sent out to eligible seniors, so if you aren’t getting them, check with evaluations on your graduation status.
Questions can also be sent to email@example.com.