Behind Commencement: A look at UMD's ceremony

  BY ANNA FRIEDRICHSEN | the Statesman

Commencement is the light at the end of the tunnel for many college students. It signifies the end of class work, late night studying and the overwhelming stress that comes with higher education.

images“It’s the biggest event of the year,” Cheryl Reitan, associate director for University Marketing and Public Relations, said.

Commencement brings family and friends of graduating students to Duluth. Some travel from all over the country (and even from around the world) to see their Bulldog(s) walk across the stage for just a few seconds.


What does it take to put on commencement?

Commencement is put on by the Chancellor’s office and involves a lot of fundraising.

“We plan all year for it. There’s a volunteer staff of about 50 people,” Reitan said. “Everything that has to happen is written down in a book.”

Reitan is one of the volunteers and has been for many years. She helps keep the pace rolling at the ceremony.

“Some students get on stage and are looking at the lights and their family members in the audience. We have to keep them moving,” Reitan said. “Everything is completely orchestrated. We’re on time a crunch.”

The year of planning is for those that are graduating, as well as those that come to support the graduates.


What does commencement mean?

“When you get to wear your uniform—your cap and gown—it’s acknowledgement of what the student has achieved,” Reitan said. “It’s recognizing all of the students for a big accomplishment, something they’ve been working on for years.”

For many students, they are the first in their family who’ve attended and are graduating college.

Some students receive special recognition and wear unique cords around their necks. The vibrant colors of cords depict achievements and groups participated in, honoring the student for going above and beyond during their college career.

Those that receive Master’s degrees are robed at the ceremony.


What to expect at commencement 2016:

There will be two ceremonies on Saturday May 7 at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC).

10 a.m. - Graduates and Undergraduates from the College of Education and Human Service Professions (CEHSP), the School of Fine Arts (SFA) and the College of Liberal Arts (CLA)

3 p.m. - Graduates and Undergraduates from the Labovitz School of Business and Economics (LSBE) and the Swenson College of Science and Engineering (SCSE)

This year’s commencement speaker is Minnesota senator Al Franken.

To get through the two-hour long commencement ceremony, take pictures, post them on Instagram and use the hashtag #umdgrad16. You’ll be featured on the jumbotron in front of all your friends, family and fellow Bulldogs.

According to Reitan, the two ceremonies will each end with a big surprise. Stay tuned -- and congratulations to UMD’s 2016 graduating class.

For more information on commencement, visit: and


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