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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Commencement updates

New gowns, no tents among the most significant changes

The 2016 Commencement ceremony saw a major change: The timing of the undergraduate and graduate ceremonies were switched, meaning that the undergraduate ceremony, usually held in the afternoon, was held at 9 a.m. This year’s ceremony will be celebrated in the morning as well, but it will come with its own set of additional changes.

The class of 2017 may already have noted two of these updates—each student an increased number of tickets for the ceremony and also paid for new caps and gowns with Saint Joseph’s University’s logo on them. Additionally, and perhaps most noticeably, there will be no tents on Curran Field for the 2017 Commencement ceremonies.

“In previous years, we have received feedback from families and guests that have been here that sightlines provided inside the tents are poor and they struggled to see,” said Sarah Quinn, ’89, assistant vice president and assistant corporate secretary and board liaison for the Office of the President. Quinn was part of the Commencement Committee that evaluated the graduation process and instituted these changes.

Additionally, removing the tents from the ceremony allows the university to provide more tickets for each student. Instead of five tickets, each undergraduate now receives seven.

“It [removing the tents] is going to allow for the addition of 1,000 seats,” said Kelly Welsh, senior director of executive communication for the Office of the President and member of the Commencement Committee.

Angela LaVechia, ’17, is happy with this compromise.

“I would rather have more tickets than a tent,” LaVechia said. “But at the same time, I just think of wearing a black cap and a black gown and how hot it’s going to be at that time of year. People like my grandparents are going to be there and they need some shade.”

Some students worry that holding the ceremony without the protection of the tents may increase the likelihood that Commencement will be moved to Hagan Arena due to inclement weather. “I have a big family,” Matthew Bernardo, ’17, said. “But if something like rain happens and I have a bunch of family down and only two people can go in Hagan, I can see how that can lead to a lot of disappointment.” Quinn expanded on the seating procedure for inclement weather.

Students embrace at Commencement (Photo by Kaitlyn Neinstedt, ’17).

“If it is drizzling, we will be outside and we will have disposable rain ponchos for the graduates so that their robes and other clothing aren’t going to be ruined,” Quinn said. “It will have to be severe inclement weather for us to make the call to move into Hagan Arena.”

According to Quinn and Welsh, other notable changes to the Commencement proceedings are the inclusion of Professional and Liberal Studies and Haub Degree Completion students in the undergraduate ceremony; a stage for professors, which will face the graduating class during the ceremony; and a new celebration for students and families held with refreshments after Baccalaureate.

The other major change for seniors is the cost of their caps and gowns. For the first time in recent years, students paid for their own graduation regalia. The cost for undergraduates is $65. The caps and gowns are now made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic bottles and also feature the St. Joe’s logo.

“This is an opportunity to sort of improve the gowns because they haven’t been of the highest quality in the past years,” Welsh said. “So the gowns just present a little nicer and students will be able to hang on to them as a momento.”

When she picked up her cap and gown this week, LaVechia was pleased.

“These gowns are so nice,” LaVechia said. “I didn’t realize how nice they were until I put it on and took my picture in it, but they’re really nice, so I didn’t really mind paying $65 for it. They’re such good quality and it’ll be something that I can keep forever.”

Bernardo understands the value of the sustainable gowns, but added that the university could offer more affordable options for graduating students.

“After I read the information about the gowns online [via the Commencement website], I was a little more convinced about paying for it,” Bernardo said. “Although I would like to see other options for renting it so that it’s less than $65 and then you can return it. I think that would be more feasible for some students.”

Ultimately, the loss of the white tents and the addition of new gowns are changes to which seniors will have to adapt.

“I guess we’ll just have to roll with it,” Bernardo said. “I’m sure that a lot of positive changes have been coming to Commencement, and I think whoever’s organizing it is doing a good job.”

Sam Henry, ’19, Managing Editor, contributed interviews to this story.

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