Commencement: Behind the scenes

It’s that time of year again. In just a few days many Indiana University of Pennsylvania students will become IUP alumni.

More than 1,900 students have applied for graduation, according to Robert Simon, IUP’s registrar and co-chair of IUP’s Commencement Committee.

This year’s ceremonies will be held May 10 in the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex’s Ed Fry Arena and include the ceremony for the colleges of Fine Arts, Health and Human Services and Natural Sciences and Mathematics at 9 a.m. and the ceremony for the College of Education, College of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Eberly College of Business and Information Technology at 1:30 p.m

Though the ceremonies seem to go off without a hitch, Kyle Campbell, chairperson of the committee and manager of IUP’s Office of University Events, said planning for the end-of-the-year ceremony begins five months prior to the event.

She said that commencement is generally the same year to year. Though there are different speakers and graduates, the format is consistent. The most recent and prominent change to IUP’s commencement ceremonies was due to the construction of the KCAC, Campbell said.

“We used to have commencement out in Miller Stadium, so weather played an issue,” she said, “so now we don’t have that problem. It’s inside, and we have two ceremonies so that students can bring family members.

“We used to have to ticket them so now we don’t have to do that anymore.”

Campbell said the committee is made up of IUP faculty including someone from the communications division, maintenance, safety (a police officer) as well as someone from IUP’s Web team.

“Each person has a job or jobs to do,” Campbell said. “The safety will take care of handicapped parking; the head of the custodians will make sure the building is clean and someone from the print center prints our programs.

“I take care of the platform party, where they all need to be as well as the physical part of the stage.”

Departmental graduation ceremonies are not orchestrated by the committee, according to Campbell. Each department handles its own optional ceremony.

The Ed Fry Arena will be redecorated for commencement, Campbell said.

The court will be carpeted, and seats will be covered. The Sheetz logo will be covered, and the ceremony will be broadcast on the Jumbotron.

Along with the committee, IUP’s department of media relations is also preparing for commencement.

“We’ll also do releases for each student for their hometown newspaper after commencement,” said Michelle Fryling, IUP’s executive director of media relations.

The media relations department has become busier around commencement time in recent years. Before the rise of social networks, the department simply sent out standard news releases, Fryling said. Now, the department posts constantly on social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and the IUP website.

“It’s a pleasure to help recognize [graduating students] and to add to the celebration of their successes by doing the publicity they deserve,” she said.

“Commencement is a very special time for our families and our students, and for us as members of the IUP community,” Fryling said. “It’s not only a celebration for them and for their families, but for us – that we’ve been able to help them along the way and help them move into the next phase of their lives.”