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Changes ahead for spring undergraduate commencement ceremonies

October 23, 2013 By Susannah Brooks

Photo: graduates in caps and gowns

Instead of four spring commencement ceremonies for undergraduates at the Kohl Center, new plans call for a single undergrad ceremony at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday, May 17.


Over the past three years, students looking ahead to their UW–Madison graduation have discussed several potential changes to the structure of spring commencement exercises.

Beginning in the spring of 2014, the ceremony will look significantly different, thanks to a partnership between Chancellor Rebecca Blank and the officers of this year’s senior class.

Under the revised plans, a single ceremony aimed at undergraduates will be held at Camp Randall Stadium at noon on Saturday, May 17.

Roughly 6,000 graduating students, along with their families (estimated at over 40,000 people) are expected to attend. The event will be shorter than current ceremonies. A commencement speaker has not yet been identified.

“This change will help us celebrate together on a grander scale while still involving the more personal elements that students look forward to throughout their time at UW–Madison.”

Rebecca Blank

Currently, the university hosts four ceremonies on Saturday and Sunday for all undergraduate majors and most master’s students. The new plan has the advantage of bringing 6,000 graduates together in a single venue.

Whether or not there will be changes to the Friday ceremony honoring Ph.D., DMA and MFA candidates, as well as professional degree recipients, is still under discussion.

Blank says she welcomes the opportunity for graduates and their families to celebrate the achievement of receiving a degree from one of the world’s top institutions.

“This change will help us celebrate together on a grander scale while still involving the more personal elements that students look forward to throughout their time at UW–Madison,” says Blank. “I’m excited to partner with students to provide an experience that is meaningful for everyone who attends.”

“Sitting alongside your entire graduating class will be a really powerful experience,” says Class President Joe Meeker. “Regardless of your major, school or college, commencement is an opportunity to think about the time we’ve shared with all our fellow Badgers, and there’s no better place to reflect on that than inside Camp Randall.”

Lori Berquam, vice provost for student life and dean of students, is pleased to see the realization of years of planning and consideration.

“One thing I’ve heard from students is that this is a culminating event for their class and a bookend to the Chancellor’s Convocation for New Students,” she says. “This is an opportunity to feel that affinity, that pride, and see the impact of their class all together in one place.”

Berquam notes that details are still being finalized, but the university is sharing plans now to allow families to plan ahead. The event will be held rain or shine, and will likely be complemented by smaller events held by the university’s academic schools and colleges.

Accessible seating and closed captioning will be available. The Camp Randall change will only affect spring commencement.

More details will be shared as they become available on the Commencement website.