FROM THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT - January 10, 2023
Dear Rice Community,
Last semester, I initiated a review of our process surrounding graduation ceremonies because:
- The size of our student body has increased steadily over time, with substantial growth in recent years. As of Fall 2022, our student population totaled 8,550 (4,552 undergraduate and 3,998 graduate students). This represents a 48% increase since 2010.
- The redesign of the central Academic Quadrangle, announced in early 2022 and scheduled to begin this year, will shift our ability to utilize it for commencement.
- High temperatures in May can make outdoor ceremonies challenging, especially during the day when participants must wear multiple layers of clothing because of academic regalia and, along with guests, sit in direct sunlight for extended periods of time.
- There has been a decrease in attendance at the plenary commencement.
As a reminder, for many years now our ceremony lineup each May has included five convocation/investiture ceremonies — including the Advanced Degree Convocation, Doctoral Convocation and Undergraduate Convocation as well as the Jones School Investiture ceremonies for MBA and MAcc students — followed by a sixth plenary commencement for all undergraduate and graduate students. In effect, this meant that graduating students attended two ceremonies each May — one convocation/investiture ceremony where students’ names would be read as they walked across a stage, and the plenary commencement where degrees were ceremonially conferred.
I am writing today to announce changes to these events beginning this May. We will now include the ceremonial degree conferral during the smaller events, so that each of the current convocation and investiture ceremonies will become the commencement ceremony for that group. We can then remove the “all-student” plenary ceremony previously held on Saturday morning of commencement weekend.
Requiring all graduates and their families, as well as Rice faculty and supporting staff, to attend two events creates additional burdens for all involved, such that many graduates have recently skipped the commencement ceremony altogether. A series of specialized ceremonies that allow each graduate to cross the stage, hear their name read and receive their degree will be a more fulfilling experience for students and their families than spreading the components over two days. As such, Rice’s official graduation ceremony structure, starting in May, will be as follows:
- Jones School (MBA) Commencement, held in the evening at Rice Stadium
- Advanced Degree Commencement, including the Jones School MAcc and MA degree recipients, held in the morning at Tudor Fieldhouse
- Doctoral Commencement, held in the morning at Tudor Fieldhouse
- Undergraduate Commencement, held in the evening at Rice Stadium
Since degrees will be ceremonially conferred at each of the four ceremonies, we will refer to each ceremony as a commencement rather than a convocation or investiture. For undergraduates, please note that commencement will include the Sallyport walk-through as part of the official processional.
Please note, the December commencement ceremony is not changing and will continue to be a celebratory option for degree candidates graduating in the Summer or Fall semesters.
As an institution of higher education, Rice University is ever-evolving. I believe the changes described above will substantially enhance the functionality of our commencement events, and I look forward to celebrating our graduates' accomplishments this May.