Graduation 101: A Guide to the 2017 Commencement


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May 12, 2017 marks the 134th Commencement Day for graduates of the University of Southern California.

The USC main Commencement ceremony on May 12 opens with a grand academic procession beginning at 8:30 a.m., followed by remarks by university leadership, the conferring of honorary degrees, addresses by the the valedictorian and commencement speaker, and the formal transition—the turning of the mortarboard tassel from right to left—that marks the moment when members of the current graduating class officially become USC graduates and alumni.

Following the main Commencement ceremony, each Academic School hosts their own ceremony, usually followed by a reception. The Academic School Ceremony is an opportunity for each program to celebrate as a cohort group, hear remarks from a speaker related to their chosen disciplines, and honor each graduate as that individual walks across the stage to receive congratulations from the platform party.

Ph.D. candidates are also invited to official hooding ceremonies held by The USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism; The USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences; The USC Marshall School of Business; The USC Rossier School of Education; and The USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

Family and friends of all our graduates are warmly welcomed to the University Park Campus for the University Commencement Ceremony and to the ceremonies of the Academic Schools.

We look forward to seeing you on this milestone occasion. Congratulations to all the members of the Class of 2017!

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  • There are many special celebrations and events the week of Commencement. Your student will know what award ceremonies or celebrations they are invited to. There are also cultural celebrations during the week you can participate in. Information for these are on the commencement website. Also, the Baccalaureate Ceremony and Dinner are on the Thursday before Commencement. Everyone is welcome to attend. Reservations for the Baccalaureate Dinner open in February. There are approximately 1,000-1,200 tickets available so be sure to check in early February if you would like to attend.
  • (Degree Progress: TRO 101; 213-740-7070;
  • Get your hotel reservations the previous spring or as soon as possible. If you want to stay close- call and ask when their books open. The rates may be higher for this time of year and some have a 2 night minimum. Some are non-refundable. Usually if you add Wednesday or Saturday then it is a little less expensive.
  • (Show sample programs if necessary.)
  • Graduation 101: A Guide to the 2017 Commencement

    1. 1. Graduation 101: A Guide to the 2017 Commencement Adam Rosen Assistant Vice President of Cultural Relations and University Events
    2. 2. Commencement Structure • Main ceremony – When degrees are officially conferred – Honorary Degrees, Commencement Speaker, valedictorian address – No registration required – Students process into Alumni Park at 8:30 a.m., ceremony begins at 9 a.m. • Satellite ceremonies (aka school ceremonies) – Where students cross the stage – Various locations and times throughout the
    3. 3. Thursday Events • Baccalaureate Ceremony, 5:00 p.m. • Baccalaureate Dinner, following at 6:30 p.m. – Reservations open in February • Cultural Celebrations, 8:00 p.m. – Asian Pacific, Chicano/Latino, African American • Award ceremonies – Students will know if they are invited to these
    4. 4. How can I get Commencement information? • • Information Booklet – Arrive in March to graduates’ permanent addresses • Grad Fest: February 15-16, 2017 – Information, memorabilia package deals – 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom
    5. 5. What do students need to do before graduation? • Meet with their academic advisor early to ensure they are on track • Check name on diploma and program – (an email from Degree Progress will come in the spring) • Check their addresses online to ensure where their diploma will be sent to – (through MyUSC) • Attend Grad Fest • Order regalia
    6. 6. Planning for Commencement Day
    7. 7. Hotels • Plan early • STA Travel is the official travel agency for Commencement. They have negotiated discounted rates with airlines, hotels and rental cars. – (213) 254-2662, • USC Parent Programs is a great resource
    8. 8. Transportation • Plan on leaving early to avoid traffic on the way to and around campus • Park at your student’s nearby apartment and walk • Don’t park at all! –Metro • Campus is easily accessible from downtown via the Expo Line –Uber or Lyft
    9. 9. Parking • Where to park: – All parking in USC structures and the Coliseum parking lot on Menlo Ave. is free for all Commencement activities on Thursday, May 11th and Friday, May 12th – Make sure to tell the attendant that you are here for Commencement and ask for a pass. Cars cannot be left overnight; it is only a pass for the day.
    10. 10. Wheelchair Drop-off & Seating • Wheelchair Drop-off – Enter Gate #4, located on Jefferson Blvd. at the Royal Street intersection, and drop off behind Leavey Library on West 34th Street – Vehicles will then be directed to park at PS1 • Wheelchair Seating – Space for one disabled guest in a wheelchair and one escort • Not chair seating- wheelchair accessible platform space only – Located on Trousdale, near the flower hedges that say USC
    11. 11. Wheelchair Drop-off and Parking
    12. 12. Wheelchair Checkout • A limited number of wheelchairs are available for complimentary checkout • Located behind Leavey Library on West 34th Street • Checkout begins at 6:00 a.m., and all wheelchairs must be returned by 5:00 p.m.
    13. 13. When to Arrive • Plan around your activities for the day • If attending the Main Ceremony, arrive by 7:00 a.m. to secure parking and seating – Students need to be at their designated assembly place by 8:00 a.m. to march in at 8:30 a.m. The ceremony starts at 9:00 a.m. • If only attending the satellite, please plan for extra time to find parking, etc. as structures may already be full due to the main ceremony
    14. 14. Seating • You cannot cross over seating areas or Trousdale during the ceremony • Review your path to the second ceremony and reception with your student, they will know the best route • You may consider sending others to get seats at the second ceremony depending on the start time – Ceremonies directly after the Main Ceremony will not begin without the dean
    15. 15. Seating • Please don’t be worried about sitting near your student during the main ceremony – You will most likely not be able to see your student through the crowds • We recommend that you find a seat near a Jumbotron, under the shade, or in an area that will be convenient to get to your next event
    16. 16. General Planning • Please remember to bring: –Hat –Sun Screen –Water and/or snacks • Hospitality kiosks and restaurants located around campus –Comfortable Shoes/Clothes
    17. 17. Pre-planning for Your Student • Sashes (aka stoles) – Very popular memorabilia item, though not required – Sold at the Bookstore – Can be customized with any messaging • Does take time for embroidery so don’t wait until the last minute
    18. 18. Sash Examples • Class year • School name • Greek letters • Nickname • Significant quote
    19. 19. Pre-planning for Your Student • Flower Leis – Another popular item that may be pre- purchased through the Bookstore – Also sold on Commencement Day in various locations throughout campus
    20. 20. Tips • Lunch – Almost every program will offer a reception before or after their ceremony, though fare will vary • Some are just light refreshments, while others are more substantial – On-campus options are available but will either be very busy or have required reservations – If leaving campus, consider traffic in/out of parking structures. Give yourself enough time to get off-campus and to your reservation
    21. 21. Tips • Making Memories – For photos, get to campus early at least the day before Commencement Day to get desired shots throughout campus with and without caps and gowns • Students usually organize their own group photo shoots in the two weeks leading up to Commencement – Return to campus at the end of the day when it is quieter
    22. 22. FAQ’s • Do I need to register for Commencement? – Students do NOT need to register for the Main Ceremony and most satellite ceremonies. However, a few schools do require their students to register. Students should check the Commencement website for information about their respective schools.
    23. 23. FAQ’s • Are tickets required for the ceremonies? – No tickets are required for the Main Ceremony but some satellite ceremonies may require tickets depending on location. • Is there a rehearsal? – There is no rehearsal for the Main Ceremony. Students should arrive no later than 8 a.m. on Commencement Day to line up before they march in. – Certain satellite ceremonies, such as that of the School of Dramatic Arts, may have rehearsals. The students will receive an email from their individual schools regarding any rehearsal opportunities.
    24. 24. FAQ’s • Do I have to attend the main ceremony? – While it is not required for students to attend the Main Ceremony, the majority of students do listen to the Commencement speaker, the valedictorian, and President Nikias. Students will not be called onstage individually, but families do enjoy coming to this ceremony because it is a big, spirited celebration.
    25. 25. FAQ’s • What if I’m double majoring and the ceremonies are at the same time? – Students with a double major have two options: 1) pick which ceremony they will be attending and only walk across the stage at that ceremony 2) reach out to each school’s ceremony coordinator about walking in both ceremonies. The coordinators will try to help them plan how to get their name called in the beginning of one and the end of the other. Family members should be cautioned that they will have to leave one and get to the other very quickly if their students chooses this option.
    26. 26. FAQ’s • Where do I get a program and are they free? – Each student will have a program on his or her seat during the main ceremony on Commencement Day. Parents can pick up programs for free at any of the numerous information booths across campus.
    27. 27. FAQ’s • When and where do graduates get their diplomas? – Diplomas will be mailed to the graduate’s permanent address four to six weeks after final grades are posted. Hence, why students should be checking their address listing under MyUSC in the spring.
    28. 28. Questions