Undergraduate graduation to change in May


Commencement will split into two ceremonies

Due to overcrowding and amount of time, this May’s undergraduate commencement ceremony at South Dakota State University will be split in two.

Each ceremony will feature three colleges. The first, at 10 a.m., is for students graduating from the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences, the College of Engineering and the College of Nursing. The second ceremony will be held at 1 p.m. and will include students from the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Education and Human Sciences and the College of Pharmacy.

Close to 600 students will participate in each undergraduate commencement ceremony this spring, said Rhoda Smith, one of the ceremony organizers. Each graduation is estimated to take around 90 minutes.

A graduate ceremony will also take place at 4 p.m on the same day.

After last year’s graduation, organizers held a debrief meeting which led to the final push for change, according to Provost Laurie Nichols.

“It took that safety and security perspective for us to know,” Nichols said. “We really should not be trying to pack as many people in.”

Overcrowding and ceremony length were just a few of the concerns that lead to the commencement changes. Limited parking, disabled seating and ease of arriving and leaving were also factors said Don Challis, assistant vice president of safety and security.

“[These issues] led to conditions that made a joyous event sometimes less than the festive event it should be for our graduates and their parents,” Challis said.

The decision to split graduation into different ceremonies started about three years ago. According to Nichols, organizers look at other universities such as Colorado and Idaho to see how their ceremonies were held.

“The model that we were seeing was college-specific commencements,” Nichols said.

However, the deans were not ready to run their own commencements yet. The option of having two ceremonies seemed more doable, Nichols said.

Students with majors in separate colleges will have the option to walk in both ceremonies or they can choose to only graduate with one.

But this idea is not appealing to everyone.

Sarah Olson, who graduated from SDSU in May 2015 with a double major, said she wouldn’t like having to choose which college to walk with or to walk in both.

“Since I majored in Biology and Spanish, with two different colleges, I would have to pick which college to walk with,” Olson said. “With this new idea, I would have to pick which ceremony, too, and be more disconnected from my other major.”

Olson said she also liked watching her friends from other colleges graduate during the same commencement.

Splitting the ceremony allows for everyone to be comfortable and for officials to deal with everything in a manageable time frame, Smith said.

“We aren’t making major changes to what we do,” Smith said. “It will retain the same traditions.”

Even though Olson is not on board, other students are looking forward to this new change, including Whitney Eystad.

As a senior pharmacy student, she believes that the split ceremonies will allow more students and families to attend.

“This is definitely a positive change. All I have heard is people complain how long the ceremony is and how hot it can get in the building…” Eystad said. “This should be a big milestone in a college student’s life, but some do not even attend due to the conditions.”

Despite the length of the ceremony, whether it is one or two, Eystad plans on walking at her graduation.

“As a pharmacy major, college graduation is a big milestone that I would never miss out on,” she said. “I have always planned to walk and will walk this May, and come back in two years to walk with my PharmD (Doctor of Pharmacy).”

Students graduating in Fall 2015 and Spring, Summer or Fall 2016 are accepted for May 2016 graduation.

“We’re not picky about it,” Nichols said. “The idea is we want students to participate in commencement.”