It is the morning of the 168th Commencement. Seven thousand chairs line Eastman Quad; tents dot campus; a sea of robed students and their families and friends clutch programs..
But who set it all up?
Twenty-two staff members from Event and Classroom Management spend October to June planning the ceremony, with four of them working full-time on the event.
Facilities and Meliora Catering also play a role in getting everything in place and the food for the different ceremonies across campus.
“We start planning Commencement the day after Commencement,” said Christine Rovet, executive director of Event and Classroom Management. “That’s kind of a joke, but not really. As soon as we are done with Commencement in May, we start thinking about what didn’t go so well, what we would change for next year. So, we do start debriefing with all of the different departments and planning really what we are going to do for this year and make notes for ourselves while it still is fresh.”
This year, fewer than 1,500 graduates will attend the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering Commencement ceremony this Sunday. But more than 3,000 total graduates will be getting their bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, with other UR ceremonies happening on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
“A lot of work goes into it, and so going up to the ceremony I thought, ‘I can’t believe I have to do this,’” Rovet said. “But then the day that we did it, I thought, ‘I can’t believe I get to do this.’
It’s such a joyous event. People are so happy. There’s an energy here that is really really cool. It’s so much fun being a part of that and making that happen.”
In addition to the school ceremonies, Event and Classroom Management plans individual diploma ceremonies. Rovet said the department improved this year on finding right-sized rooms to accommodate them.
“Since the class has grown each year, we were finding that the diploma ceremonies were getting a little bit crowded where they were,” Rovet said. “We really looked at how many people fit in the spaces and how many people come to the ceremonies. We also added Wegmans Hall in for the diploma ceremony. We moved three different ceremonies to the Advancement Center, which is also a beautiful place that had been under-utilized up until this point.”
Each student’s diploma is signed by University President Richard Feldman and the dean of that student’s school. Event and Classroom Management packages these into golden tubes.
The set-up for the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering commencement ceremony on the Eastman Quad begins on Wednesday and goes through Friday. Event and Classroom Management also purchased blow-bubbles and beach balls for the ceremony.
People on the platform at the front of the ceremony get their regalia from the Event and Classroom Management office. There are blue robes with yellow stripes and blue graduation caps. Feldman has a custom-made robe embroidered with two gold Meliora patches and his initials stitched on the inside of it.
The College’s ceremony will be livestreamed on UR’s website, along with video walls with captions to accommodate attendees who are hearing impaired or cannot see the stage.And if the weather is bad, organizers can simulcast the event to other locations around campus so people can still watch the ceremony. Event and Classroom Management has also purchased 8,000 rain ponchos and bags to put programs in if it rains.
Rovet takes pride in her staff’s inclusion of students in the event. Student marshals will help lead the procession and seniors from each acapella group that perform throughout the ceremony.