Winter commencement will be having a new change to the ceremony. Traditionally, students and faculty are distinguished by their colleges with the college’s flag leading their students into the venue. Susan Jameson, the administrative assistant of academic and student affairs, says that this year the colleges of the students and faculty marching into the ceremony area will also be announced in order for guests to better identify their student. Graduate students earning their master’s or doctorate degree will also have a new banner leading their procession to the ceremony.
Kathy Anderson, the executive assistant for the office of the president, said it can be overwhelming for the audience trying to find their graduate among 500 to 600 students. Paul Koch, the vice president of academic and student affairs, and Jameson work alongside Anderson, planning every commencement ceremony months in advance. Jameson says these changes will be tested with the winter commencement, and if it disturbs the flow and experience for the students and guests, it will not be used again.
“It’s because winter commencement is a lot smaller so we can practice this,” Koch said. But if these changes prove to be helpful, every commencement ceremony will now be adopting these changes.
“Our goal is to enrich their experience,” Anderson said. “It’s such a celebration, the smiles, the sheer joy.”
Regardless if the new additions continue to be used or not, Koch, Jameson and Anderson said the commencement ceremonies will continue to have its traditional events such as the hooding ceremony and faculty and staff clapping the graduates as they exit the arena. The hooding ceremony was adopted by SAU about a decade ago for students receiving a master’s or doctorate degree. These hoods would then be worn for the commencement ceremony, and they varied in color and style depending on the student’s degree and area of study.
“It makes for a beautiful and colorful ceremony,” Anderson said.
Koch says he doesn’t know how clapping students out of the arena and at the beginning of the year for the freshmen class became an Ambrose tradition, but he thinks it may have been an accident.
“It’s embedded tradition, the clapping at the beginning and at the end, when you have a university the size of St. Ambrose, you get to know people and you see that in these faces,” he said.
Although commencement planning is a laborious process such as reserving venues three years in advance, Koch says it’s all worth it when he sees the results.
“I know I’ve done a good job when I see the faces of the students crossing the stage, ultimately this is for them,” Koch said. “It’s a rite of passage.”