Thousands of students set to graduate at increasingly popular commencement

This Saturday, more than 3,000 graduates will stride across the stage, clutch scrolls and gleefully launch caps into the air during a ceremony that has been steadily gaining popularity among both students and their families.

Commencement Convocation will take place Saturday at Edwards Memorial Stadium instead of on a weekday at the Greek Theatre. The venue changed in spring 2010 when increased demand led to its relocation to the 11,500-seat Haas Pavilion. That year, more than 1,600 graduating seniors attended the event.

According to Gretchen Kell, campus media relations director, this year the ceremony is more popular than ever. Kell said this rise is in large part a result of the shift to Saturday.

“More families (can) travel and be part of the experience,” she said.
According to Kell, more students are finding the ceremony appealing because they can attend with their friends, regardless of department. Names are not called in alphabetical order, which allows graduates to sit and walk together.

Kell also speculates that the buzz caused by last year’s keynote speaker — Austin Whitney, a paraplegic who walked across the stage using an exoskeleton strapped to his legs — has also contributed to the ceremony’s growth. This year’s keynote address will be delivered by Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt.

What awaits this year’s 3,000-odd graduates on the other side of the stage? Recent campus surveys of have shown that, typically, two-thirds of graduating seniors enter the workforce, one-quarter enter graduate school and the remainder pursue other interests such as travel or the Peace Corps.