three 2011 graduates smile

Guest Information

Commencement Definition: A ceremony at which academic degrees or diplomas are conferred.

Graduation Definition: the successful completion of a program of study.


Graduates are encouraged to invite family and friends to attend Commencement. Due to the large crowd expected (about 5,000 each ceremony) and the limited seating capacity, graduates are asked to invite a limited number of guests. Reservations and tickets are not needed. Seating is on a first-come basis. All guests should be seated at last 30 minutes before the ceremony or risk missing the processional as certain pathways will be temporarily closed while the graduates walk in.

Indoor Webcast Viewing of Commencement

You may view the Commencement ceremonies webcast from Stevenson 1002 and Darwin 1003. Seating in the rooms is on a first-come basis. Reservations are not taken for seating in this area. Additionally, during and after, the ceremony can be viewed by visiting from any location with internet access, for those who wish to view the ceremony from home or some other location.

Guests with Disabilities or Mobility Limitations

The Assigned Seating area is for guests who have disabilities, mobility limitations and for those needing an American Sign Language interpreter.  The Commencement area is within walking distance of parking lots and guests should bring their walkers, wheelchairs etc.  Guests needing assistance from a friend or family member can have that person sit with them.

To request an assigned seating guest pass, please fill out a reservation form or email University Affairs events office or call: (707) 664-2404. Requests should be made by April 18.  If you miss the deadline, guests should go directly to the assigned seating area upon arrival.  We will make every effort to accommodate those who have not made reservations in advance.

In order to process your guest pass request, provide the following information:

  1. Name of guest sitting in assigned seating. Indicate if the guest will have a helper sitting with them.
  2. Indicate if the guest is attending the morning or afternoon ceremony
  3. Specific needs of guest: i.e.: limited mobility requires a sign language interpreter, etc.
  4. Mailing address where pass should be mailed

A parking pass for Lot G and a campus map will be included when assigned seating guest passes are mailed.  University employees will be available to transport guests with limited mobility using golf carts or their own wheelchairs from the parking Lot G to the Commencement Lawn/Assigned Seating area. 

Maps, Campus and Area

Please go to the SSU campus map page for campus and area maps. The main campus map slows the location of the Commencement Lawn and parking lots.

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.

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 "name" card that they fill out when lined up prior to the ceremonies). Orders can be placed once photo proofs are received. Students may use an alternate email to their Seawolf account.

Personal Photography

Audience members are free to take photographs or to video, however they should do so from their seating area and take care not to disrupt the ceremony, block another person's view, or in any way detract from the enjoyment of the event. Photographs of each student receiving his or her diploma will be taken and are available for purchase (see above).

Academic Regalia

Traditional academic regalia (cap and gown) is considered standard apparel for graduates at Commencement. If you cannot attend the Grad Fair March 6-7 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the University Commons, these items can be obtained at the SSU Bookstore or online. To ensure proper sizing, graduates are encouraged to purchase their regalia as soon as possible.

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 cards 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).


The Sonoma State University Children’s School, a program of the Associated Students, Inc., offers a variety of flowers for sale from booths at various campus sites on Commencement day beginning at 7:30 a.m. The booths remain open until 5:30 p.m. Proceeds benefit the Children’s School.

Food and Beverages for Sale

Food and beverages are available for sale in well-traveled areas of campus beginning at 8:00 a.m. Consumption of alcoholic beverages is not permitted before, during or after Commencement. Drinking and misconduct by even a few would be disturbing to the graduates, faculty, and guests who expect and deserve a safe, orderly, and dignified ceremony. Any graduate who appears to be intoxicated will not be permitted to participate in the ceremony.


The Bookstore will be open Commencement day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Guests can purchase over the counter medication for headache & allergies, sunscreen, batteries, disposable cameras, etc. as well gift items for graduates. See the Commencement Map for additional booth locations around campus where these items can also be purchased.


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.

A special message about the weather

It has rained during recent graduation ceremonies. Ceremonies will proceed in inclement weather. A reminder that the seating area is not covered and the lawns in this area and on campus can become wet and muddy. Please proceed with caution when navigating the lawns —in particular guests with limited mobility should take special care.

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.

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.


Sheraton Sonoma County-Petaluma
745 Baywood Drive · Petaluma, California 94954
Phone: (707) 283-2888 Anthony Chavarria

Hampton Inn & Suites Rohnert Park - Sonoma County
6248 Redwood Drive, Rohnert Park, California 94928
Phone: (707) 586-8700

Doubletree Hotel Sonoma Wine Country
One Doubletree Drive, Rohnert Park, California 94928
Phone: (707) 584-5466

SSU Visitor Information