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General Graduate Information | Processional | Recessional
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General Graduate Information

Commencement Definition | Graduation Definition | Eligibility
Time and Location | Graduates with Disabilities | Parking | Grad Fair
Announcements | Class Rings | Academic Regalia | Diploma Photographs
Commencement Programs | Restrooms | Smoking | Cell Phones
Dogs | First Aid | Local Weather | In Case of Rain
Information, Messages, and Lost and Found | Meeting Guests

Commencement Definition

A ceremony at which academic degrees or diplomas are conferred.

Graduation Definition

The successful completion of a program of study.

Who is Eligible to Participate in Commencement

Students who graduated in December, 2011 and candidates for May and August, 2011.

No pre-registration is required to participate in Commencement. Students will be given cards to fill in their names as they line up on Commencement day. Names are read as the student crosses the platform.

There is no dress rehearsal for Commencement. Monitors and Ushers will guide students on Commencement day.

Arrival Times and Location

Both ceremonies are held at The Commencement Lawn by the Lakes.

Report to the processional line-up area on the north side of Stevenson Hall.

Report by 8:15 a.m. for the 9:00 a.m. ceremony

Report by 2:15 p.m. for the 3:00 p.m. ceremony

Graduates with Disabilities or Mobility Limitations

Special seating for graduates with disabilities, limited mobility or for those in need of a sign language interpreter will be available in the Graduate seating area (with, or close to your school, depending on request and availability). Contact Disability Services for Students at (707) 664-2677 or email to make arrangements. Requests should be made as soon as possible.


Parking permits are not required on Commencement day. All lots are open and available, including metered spaces and reserved lots. Do not park in disabled parking spaces unless you are legally able to do so. See campus map for locations.

Grad Fair

This is a must attend event for graduating seniors.The SSU Bookstore is holding a Grad Fair on March 1 & 2 in the University Commons from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. It is highly recommended that all graduates attend as the following vendors will be available to answer questions and assist graduates with their purchasing needs.

Photographers will take cap and gown (loaned for the shoot) photos of graduating students at the Grad Fair. There is no sitting fee and no obligation to purchase. Proofs will be emailed to students within 48 hours of the sitting.

In addition to refreshments, attendees will also receive 10% off diploma frames, announcement packages, and regalia packages.

Graduation Announcements

Custom imprinted announcements (featuring graduate's name and degree) can be ordered online at Herff Jones Sonoma website or at the Grad Fair. Please allow four weeks for delivery. Generic (non-personalized) graduation announcements and printed insert cards are available for purchase at the SSU Bookstore. The phone number of the SSU Bookstore is (707) 664-2329.

Class Rings

Class rings can be ordered online at Herff Jones Sonoma website. A representative from Herff Jones will be present during the Grad Fair and on the day of Commencement for in-person ordering.

Academic Regalia

Traditional academic regalia (cap and gown) is considered standard apparel for graduates at Commencement. If you cannot attend Grad Fair in March, these items can be purchased online until April 2 at Herff Jones Sonoma After April 1, graduates may visit or call the the SSU Bookstore throughto order regalia (707-664-2329). To ensure proper sizing, graduates are encouraged to purchase their regalia as soon as possible. Caps and gowns will be distributed at the Bookstore beginning May 16, up until the day of Commencement.

The cap and gown package prices listed below will be honored online, only until April 1. Individual product prices can be found at SSU Bookstore website.

The Basic Package (valid in-store or online starting March 1)

The Super Saver Package (Online only starting March 1)

Diploma Photographs

Photographers will take each graduate's photograph as he or she receives his or her diploma. Graduates will receive an e-mail proof of their photo within 1 week of the ceremony (e-mail addresses will be written by the graduates on their "green" card that they fill out when lined up prior to the ceremonies). Orders can be placed once photo proofs are received. Students may feel comfortable listing their Sonoma State University e-mail addresses for this purpose since these e-mail addresses remain active for one semester after a student graduates.

Commencement Programs

Printed programs containing the names of graduates, a list of faculty, and other information about Commencement will be distributed on Commencement day. Graduates’ programs will be on their chairs. Guests will be able to pick up their programs as they enter the Commencement area (2 per family).


Restrooms in nearby buildings surrounding The Commencement Area will be open, including Stevenson Hall, Salazar Hall, the Art Building, and the gymnasium. Maps of open restrooms will be available at many locations during Commencement and in the Commencement program. Portable restrooms are located near the Student Union.


In order to reduce the hazards of exposure to secondhand smoke, smoking is prohibited inside and within 20 feet of the outermost perimeter of all campus buildings, exterior ramps, stairways, and dining patios, as well as outside gathering and seating areas and any other location that unavoidably exposes others to second hand smoke.

Cell Phones

Please turn off cell phones and personal electronic devices during the ceremony.


Dogs and other animals, other than service animals, are not permitted at Commencement or on the University grounds on Commencement day.

First Aid

An emergency first aid station will be set up near the northeast side of the Student Union building. University Police Officers will be on duty in the Commencement area to assist with first aid, emergencies and lost and found. Look for signage on Commencement day.

Local Weather

The weather can be very warm, and there is little shade available at the Commencement site. In case of rain, bring raincoats, umbrellas, and appropriate footwear. Please check the local weather forecast to be best prepared.

In Case of Rain

The ceremony will go forward, on the Commencement Lawn even in the event of inclement weather. Sonoma County does not have a location large enough to hold this celebration indoors. In case of rain, bring raincoats, umbrellas, and appropriate footwear. Please note the ceremony may be abbreviated to ensure the safety of all graduates, guests, faculty and staff. Speeches could be omitted from the program and names may not be able to be read.

Information, Messages, and Lost and Found

An information, message, and lost and found center will be located north of the Commons. A board available to graduates and guests for posting messages will be set up and staffed on Commencement day.

Meeting Guests after the Ceremony

Graduates are urged to make arrangements before Commencement to meet family and friends after the ceremonies at the academic School receptions or another pre-designated location. Please remind guests that the audience must remain in their seats during the Recessional.


Line-Up | Personal BelongingsArts & Humanities
Business & Economics | Education
Science & Technology | Social Sciences
Conferring of Degrees | Diplomas | Tassel Placement | Honors

Begins promptly at 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.

Line-up for Processional

Graduates should report to the processional line-up on the north side of Stevenson Hall by 8:15 a.m. for the 9 a.m. ceremony, and 2:15 p.m. for the 3 p.m. ceremony. Graduates line up by academic School. Within each School, master’s degree candidates march first, followed by bachelor’s degree candidates. Graduates should line up two across. If graduates want to sit together, they should line up behind one another, not next to one another as the lines will split in two directions upon entering the Commencement site. If your family is sitting on the Art Building side of the Commencement site, line up in the right position of the line. If your family is sitting on the Commons side of the Commencement site, line up in the left-side position.

Signs will identify academic School line-up areas. Faculty marshals and staff serving as monitors will be present to direct graduates. Graduates who have double majors may line up with either academic School; only one diploma will be given. Graduates who have interdisciplinary majors should line up with the academic School of their primary field of study.

During the line-up, monitors will give each graduate a green card on which to write his or her name. Be sure to fill out a card; print legibly and, if appropriate, phonetically. Keep this important card with you at all times prior to receiving your diploma. It will be used by the reader during the ceremony. The card will also be used to identify the photograph that will be taken as each graduate receives his or her diploma.

Please pay attention and move at a steady pace with the processional to avoid confusion and delays. Follow the instructions of the faculty marshals.

Once the graduates have entered the graduates’ seating section, remain standing until asked to be seated.

Personal Belongings

Please do not carry any personal belongings during the ceremony. There are no facilities available for checking in and holding of personal items.

Science & Technology (3 p.m. ceremony)

Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Engineering Science, Geology, Interdisciplinary Studies/Special Major, Kinesiology, Mathematics, Nursing, Physics

Social Sciences (3 p.m. ceremony)

Anthropology, Counseling, Criminology and Criminal Justice, Cultural Resources, Management, Environmental Studies and Planning, Geography, Global Studies, History, Human Development, Liberal Studies (Ukiah Program), Political Science, Psychology, Public Administration, Sociology, Women's and Gender Studies

Arts & Humanities (9 a.m. ceremony)

American Multicultural Studies, Art, Art History, California Cultural Studies, Chicano and Latino Studies, Communication Studies, English, Fine Arts, French, Interdisciplinary Studies/Hutchins, Liberal Studies (Hutchins School), Music, Philosophy, Spanish, Theatre Arts

Business & Economics (9 a.m. ceremony)

Business Administration, Economics, Management

Education (9 a.m. ceremony)

Education Master's

Conferring of Degrees

The Chair of the Faculty, Dr. John Wingard, will formally commend all students who are candidates for degrees.

The Interim Provost, Dr. Saied Rahimi, will then ask the master’s degree candidates to stand and will commend them. The President will then confer the degrees.

The Academic School Dean will ask the bachelor’s degree candidates to stand and will commend them, by academic school.

President Ruben Armiñana will then ask the candidates for the bachelor's degree to stand and will confer the degrees.

Following the conferral of degrees, graduates will be asked to be seated and those graduates receiving masters degrees will be asked to stand and walk to the platform to receive their diplomas. When all masters have received their diplomas, they will be seated and bachelors asked to stand and come forward to receive their diplomas. Graduates will be asked to walk to the platform to receive their diplomas.


For ceremonial purposes, a diploma case will be presented to students during the ceremony. December graduates have already received their diplomas by mail; May and August graduates will receive their diplomas by mail. May graduates who do not attend the ceremony will receive their diploma and case by mail. December and August graduates who do not attend the ceremony may request (in writing to the Admissions and Records Office, 1801 E. Cotati Avenue, Rohnert Park, CA 94928) that a diploma case be mailed to them.

Tassel Placement

Master’s degree candidates wear the tassel on the left side of the cap. Bachelor’s degree candidates wear the tassel on the right side of the cap. After the conferring of degrees, bachelor’s degree recipients will be given instructions to move the tassel to the left side, signifying their status as graduates.


It has already been determined which December graduates have earned the designation cum laude, magna cum laude or summa cum laude. For May and August graduates, determinations were made on the basis of academic records at the end of January. Final determination of honors for May and August graduates will be made after all grades are in for the students’ final semester. Honors will be noted on transcripts and diplomas. Honor cords (which are worn with regalia) are available in the bookstore and are identified by the following colors:

During the presentation of diplomas, each graduate will walk to the platform and his or her name will be read. Each graduate will receive his or her diploma from their academic School Dean or Provost and will be congratulated by the Chair of the Faculty or the President.


The recessional, like the processional, depends on everyone’s cooperation. Please join the line promptly and in proper order. Do not stop to talk with family and friends. Family and friends need to remain at their seats until all the graduates have left the Commencement site. Graduates need to keep the line intact and moving.

Recessional music will begin at the conclusion of the Commencement ceremony. The Platform Party will leave the platform, marching down the center aisle, turning right in front of the graduates, and onto the path adjacent to the Student Union. The faculty will follow, marching two across. The graduates will exit to the inside aisle and, marching two across, will follow the faculty.

March along the path from the Commencement site, between the Commons and Student Union, and then toward the Seawolf Shops Bookstore, then south towards Salazar Hall. The faculty will continue along the pathway where they will stop and separate to form two facing lines. The graduates will continue, passing through the faculty lines. The forming of the faculty lines is a Sonoma State tradition which allows faculty an opportunity to greet and congratulate graduates. Once graduates pass through the faculty lines, they are free to join family and friends.


Academic School Receptions

Each Academic School hosts an informal reception for graduates and their guests immediately following the Commencement ceremonies. Refreshments are served. The receptions provide a good opportunity for graduates to greet faculty and introduce family and friends, and for informal photographs.

Student Commencement Speaker

Learn how to become a student commencement speaker.