Graduation is the culmination of years of work, highlighted by the spectacle of the commencement ceremony. This year’s ceremony will be held on Tuesday, June 5, at 6 p.m. in Rocky Young Park.
While the ceremony takes place at the end of the spring semester, the preparation starts at the beginning of the school year.
“It’s a big concert that goes on behind the scenes of a lot of people coming together, usually starting in fall,” said Shilo Nelson, who is a member of both the Graduation Committee and the Events and Recognition Committee.
Nelson said that the much of the committees’ work is coordinating with the various departments and groups on campus. Plant Facilities sets up the stage, sound system and seating, student services and the faculty senate arrange speakers, the sheriff’s office provides security.
“You want it to be an event that of course students remember,” Nelson said. “You also want it to be nice and fluid and easy so it’s stress free for the students as they go through it.”
According to Kristine Ayvazyan from the Graduation Office, there were 1,874 students invited to participate in the commencement. The ceremony will honor more than an estimated 700 students who decide to celebrate their associate’s achievement in person.
Ayvazyan said the number of graduates in attendance will be hard to predict because Pierce does not require RSVPs to its graduation invitation.
”We have 442 graduates for Fall 2017 and we have 1,522 candidates for graduation for the Spring 2018,” said Ayvazyan in an email. “We do not refer to students as graduates until all information is verified and a degree is posted to the students record.”
Former student and Brahma softball player Madison Tupper, who died unexpectedly at 19 in May 2017, will be awarded an honorary degree.
Dean of Student Services William Marmolejo said Pierce invited Tupper’s family to the event to receive the degree as a demonstration of support.
Marmolejo said the most important thing he hopes participants will note going into this year’s ceremony is the new locations students and faculty will convene prior to marching into the Park to the tune of “Land of Hope and Glory.”
“This year is going to be different than the last half dozen years where the students set up,” he said.
In previous years, students gathered in the Center for the Sciences. This year, students will meet in the 600 Building, and faculty will meet inside the ASO office.
“You might see faculty running around a little lost,” Nelson said.
Marmolejo said students and faculty should arrive as early as 4:30 p.m to ready themselves for the evening’s main event.
Marmolejo said distinguished students, or Student Marshals, will lead their peers at the front of the line from the faculty-staff building to the park.
“I would encourage guests to arrive as soon as possible because graduation begins right past 6,” he said. “Five o’clock would be wonderful. People start securing spots early in the day.”
Marmolejo said although guests reserve certain spots, there would no shortage of seating in the park on graduation day.
“We don’t restrict the amount of guests a students can have,” Marmolejo said. “There are 4,000 chairs in Rocky Young Park.”
Marmolejo said attendees can look forward to open and free parking in all of the campus lots.
Marmolejo said although the mass exodus post-event is chaotic, the event will likely last around two hours.
“It’s usually over by 8 because we don’t have lights out there,” Marmolejo said.
Marmolejo said Pierce commencement does not have a keynote speaker from outside of campus, but looks forward to hearing what the student and district speaker share. The commencement speaker is chosen from the student body by the student government, Marmolejo said.
Emily Andrade was selected as the student speaker [story on pg 5] through a speech contest held by ASO.
Academic Senate President Anna Bruzzese will serve as the master of ceremonies, according to Marmolejo.
Marmolejo said the Graduation Committee must navigate physical changes as well as title and role changes.
“This year, our president is leaving, which is a big deal. I’m not exactly sure if it’s public knowledge, but she will be at commencement,” Marmolejo said. “She has left Pierce and she is at the district office. However, I believe she will still be serving as our president at our ceremony.”
According to Pierce College Public Relations Manager Doreen Clay, the number of graduates who actually show to commencement has gradually increased over the last decade.
Marmolejo said that generally less than half of the anticipated graduates show, but growing attendance indicates how excited students are to be recognized for their past and encouraged to move forward.
Marmolejo said more than 150 students showed up for the first half-hour rehearsal on May 22. The second rehearsal will take place today, May 30 from 10 to 11 a.m., in the Student Engagement Center (ASO Office), located on the first floor of the Library/Learning Crossroads building (LLC).
“It’s not mandatory. Students are not required to go,” Marmolejo said.
Marmolejo said the growing attendance demonstrates an increased appreciation for the recognition of students’ successes.
“For many students this has been years in the making. Most of our student have taken a lot longer than two years to graduate,” Marmolejo said. “We get to celebrate those students.”
Marmolejo said the celebration looks to past accomplishments as much as it looks to future.
“Students work so hard. An associates degree is not the end goal for most of the students. Many will transfer and continue their education, but it’s always nice to pass and reflect on all the hard work that they’ve done,” he said.