Photo credit: Kimberly Smith

Kimberly Smith Graphic

As of this academic school year, the provost’s office has decided to discontinue July commencement. This leaves only two graduation weekends a year, coming in May and December. Enhancements to the remaining commencement ceremonies are in the works, too.

The decision came from a constant conversation between the Provost’s Office, the Academic Cabinet and the Commencement Coordinating Committee, with finalization from the Office of the President. According to Vicky Bowden, vice provost of undergraduate students, the main goal in the conversation was to find the best way to focus more energy and resources into graduation.

“We want to increase the capacity and participation in May and December graduations and try to be more resourceful in these celebratory activities,” Bowden said. “We are placing more emphasis on weekend activities in order to celebrate our graduates.”

According to Bowden, there are about 7,000 to 12,000 students, families and friends gathered at commencement, making it the biggest event on campus. In order to maximize capacity, the university is implementing and planning adjustments to better highlight students’ achievements.

“How can we resource it [graduation] and showcase who we are at the same time?” Bowden said.

In discontinuing summer ceremonies, the administration decided to place more emphasis on graduation activities. Baccalaureate Ceremony, the former convocation for undergraduate students, has been moved to later in the day to support attendance by friends and family members. Additionally, the “APU Gate” in commencement ceremonies now marks a rite of passage for all undergraduate, professional and graduate students at Azusa Pacific as they march through it to celebrate the culmination of their academic journey.

According to an email sent out by the provost’s office, individual schools and departments on campus host gatherings to “celebrate student accomplishments and foster continued fellowship between graduates and faculty in the presence of family and friends.” The email also stipulated eligibility requirements for graduation.

According to One Stop, students are eligible to participate in May graduation as long as all degree work has been completed or if no more than nine units will be taken in a term that begins after the commencement ceremony. For this year, Bowden said that “administration is trying to be as student-friendly and respectful as possible because many have planned to graduate in July.”

In order to accommodate the new overflow of student graduates, the university received a permit from the fire marshal last week to increase May graduation seating to 10,000, adding 3,000 to the event. The graduation setup will look different this year in order to accommodate the new seating. However, students still receive 10 tickets for May graduation. Additionally, UTCC is open during commencement ceremonies for families who wish to stay out of the sun and view graduation on live screens. Families may check for additional tickets that could be available on commencement day.

“We are trying to have all who planned to graduate in July walk during May commencement,” Bowden said.

Bowden expressed that students should plan accordingly in order to graduate on time and should use their four-year plans as well as schedule academic advising with their designated advisers.

“Now that there is no summer commencement, this allows me to walk in May and finish a class at the beginning of summer term,” said Arielle Wilburn, fifth-year psychology major. “I am very thankful for this change and hope that it benefits versus harms students in the future.”

Bowden’s desire is to make commencement an exciting culminating event for all APU students.

“I hope we continue to make changes in ceremonies that promote APU commencement and make it a wonderful celebratory event,” Bowden said.

For more information on graduation ceremonies visit www.apu.edu/graduation.