Commencement, the largest event on campus each semester, takes months of detailed planning to ensure everything is accounted for and the ceremony flows smoothly.
Coordinating all facets of the ceremony and checking the details to provide a perfect day is a nonstop affair. For Nicole Morrow, it’s also a full-time one. In addition to being the Assistant Director of Curriculum & Assessment, she’s NAU’s designated full-time commencement staff member.
“Not until the last student crosses the stage, do I take a deep breath and am able to begin decompressing. The dedication and hard work of the more than 150 volunteers ensures this event runs smoothly and helps make it a memorable event for the graduates, their families and guests. And I love to see all the creative cap designs too!”
How do all the pieces fall together?
Every year Morrow makes her graduation lists and checks them twice. Or rather every single day. From the Registrar’s Office to Sodexo catering, Alumni Engagement and Relations, University Events, Facility Services, the President’s Office, NAUPD and NAU-TV — everyone plays a role in the semester’s grand finale.
Setting up the Skydome
If you’ve tuned in to our live events, you’ll know that NAU-TV is behind the lens. In fact, they’ve produced live, televised coverage of commencement since 1998.
Setup begins the Monday prior to commencement and continues throughout the week. Following the last ceremony, the crew packs up and departs the Skydome about two hours after the last ceremony ends. That’s 96 hours in the Dome.
Fun fact: NAU-TV’s 40 member production team includes students as well.
My favorite part, and I think everyone’s favorite part, is of course the streamers! 🎉 We are always prepared for when they go off so we can get the perfect shot! I also love seeing all the decorated caps! It still weirds me out that I am going to be on the other side of the camera this time, but I also couldn’t be more excited! — Mariah Soer
A little word of advice, if you want to get on camera, you have a much better chance if your cap is decorated!
Cue the music
You’re probably familiar with Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1, an instrumental composition performed at commencements worldwide. At NAU, it’s one of three different musical pieces performed as the graduates, faculty and stage party take their seats.
Why is Pomp and Circumstance so popular? It’s comprised of repeatable segments that allow the conductor to tailor the length of the performance on the spot.
So graduates take your time marching in. Look around, take a selfie, wave to your family and friends and let the moment sink in.
Fun fact: NAU’s Wind Symphony, the ensemble behind the music, performed at two professional conventions this spring, the Arizona Music Educators Association Conference and the College Band Directors National Association Western/Northwestern Divisional Conference.
For a preview of their music, press ▶ and repeat.
Leaders of the procession
On the day of the ceremony, get to know your commencement marshals. This volunteer group of NAU faculty and staff will be dressed in robes with a gold sash that says marshal.
What do marshals do? They’re the glue that holds everything together. Marshals make sure you meet up with your college, sit in the right place, have your name card and pencil to write your name and get you across that stage.
Marshall Matt Tantau, Director of Student Services and Activities, explains.
So remember, if you have any questions when you get to the Skydome these people are the ones to ask. If they don’t know the answer, they have ear buds in that connect with them the commencement planners to make sure everything goes as planned.
Hearing your name called
For family and friends who have traveled near and far, hearing your name is the highlight of the ceremony.
How can you make sure your name is pronounced correctly?
Follow these four tips from Brian Sanders, KNAU’s operations director and one of NAU’s commencement name readers.
- Print legibly. The bigger, the better. ✏
- If your name is unique, give us clues. Rhymes with ______ or sounds like _______.
- Avoid smudging the paper. You’ll be given a notecard and a pencil. Pencil tends to smudge more easily if you’re nervous so be aware.
- Please hand it right side up. If it’s upside down or backwards, we have less time to spend on making sure we get it right.
Do this and your graduation crew can get their cheers in (and horns) too.
The welcoming committee
Once you walk across that stage, your alumni life begins.
You’ll be greeted by members of the NAU Alumni Board of Directors who will welcome you to alumni family and present you with a new Alumni lapel pin. Make sure to save these and wear it out proudly.
Let the celebration begin
Once all the degrees have been awarded, President Cheng will prompt you to make the switch. You’ll move your tassels from the right to left.
That’s when it becomes official and the streamers fly 🎊
The next chapter
You’re now a college graduate. Say it with us. College graduate. Northern Arizona University alum.
What does this mean? It means that you’ve gained a new network of friends. Our Alumni Engagement office will help you stay in touch with your classmates, share your updates (jobs, moves and those new baby photos too), connect you with Lumberjacks across the nation (and globe too) and make sure wherever you go, you have a network to turn to.
And don’t forget about class reunions.
Every May, we honor Lumberjacks on the 50th anniversary of their graduation. These “Golden Graduates” are a testament to the spirit and strength of our alumni.
Always a Lumberjack
Life after NAU can take many forms but one thing that remains constant is the impact our graduates are making in their communities. They are working to solve problems and find solutions to the challenges of our time, and preparing themselves as leaders of the future.
With nearly 150,000 graduates, you never know the places you’ll find a Lumberjack!
P.S. Check your mail 📫
We know we said it was official when the streamers fly, but really it’s when you have this in hand.