Thank You for Attending the 2020 Annual Conference
Thank you for attending the 2020 Conference in Chicago!
We hope to see you at the next NAACO Conference in Philadelphia, PA from February 22 – 24, 2021.
Presentations and archived content from the 2020 Conference in Chicago will be available soon through the members only website. If you are not a member, but attended the 2020 Conference, you can request access to this information via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Times and Sessions are Subject to Change. Further details will be released about each session shortly.
President’s Welcome, Certificate Graduation Ceremony, Conference Chair’s Welcome, and more
Colleges and universities are replete with rituals and ceremonies marking significant occasions in students’ and community members’ lives. Convocations, presidential inaugurations, graduations, and award ceremonies are ceremonies that occur on college and university campuses. Despite the ubiquitous nature of these rituals and ceremonies, those of us who plan and attend these events have limited knowledge of their deeper meanings, the reasons for the notable commitment to their continuation, and the possible meanings conveyed to internal and external community members.
In this keynote, Dr. Kathleen Manning calls upon the anthropological theory of rituals, secular ceremonies, and cultural performances to share ways that traditional ceremonies on campuses can be most richly endowed with purposeful, meaningful messages. The speaker will share her research on campus traditions and connect current day ceremonies with traditional and contemporary anthropological theory to express why the higher education community is so intent on their continuation.
Outdoor ceremonies can be wonderful but when the weather takes a turn for the wet and muddy, it puts a big stressor on what is the biggest event of the year for many schools. Hartford, Connecticut, the home of the University of Connecticut School of Law, experienced record breaking rain in the spring of 2019. Learn how the Events and Facilities staff navigated through the twists and turns leading up to the day of the event and how they ultimately pulled it off.
Improving technical processes can be done effectively and on time! The presenter will cover proper evaluation, IT relationships, and implementation strategies. Using a case study, we’ll examine success of the migration of an entire system of graduation documents (printed program, parchments, registration lists, processional cards, and various reports). The learning objectives are a roadmap that can be used at other institutions, and hopefully assist everyone in running projects related to process improvement.
3 hours and 40 minutes. That was the length of the Commencement Ceremony at the University of Washington Bothell in 2018. Students left early in droves, even regents left the stage. Staff were unhappy, and the Chancellor said something HAD to be done. Months were spent analyzing footage, developing a new plan and implementing it across various key players to reduce the ceremony time in 2019. Changes ranged from evaluating student check-in, processional, integrating faculty participation, reworking the stage design, and facilitating buy-in from various stakeholders without losing our sense of control over the ceremony. The 2019 ceremony ended as a raging success and we want to share our story and tips with you!
Flags are an integral part of academic ceremonies, meetings, conferences, and commencements. Knowing how and when to fly flags correctly is an essential skill for commencement officers and special events planners. Learn about this complex and interesting subject from April L. Harris, author of Etiquette and Protocol A Guide for Campus Events, 2nd edition.
Golden 1 Center in Sacramento is the home of the NBA Sacramento Kings, and also the home of Sacramento State’s commencement ceremonies. When NBA Playoff time comes around, there is the possibility that Sacramento State may lose their reservation to playoff games (should the Kings do well).
With this in mind, Sacramento State’s Commencement team has had to create a yearly contingency plan, to hold commencement ceremonies for 9,000+ graduates on-campus.
In this session, we’ll explore the backup site selection process, the planning timeline, and budgeting hurdles associated with Sacramento State’s annual Commencement Contingency Plan.
Every event manager knows that volunteers are the backbone of running successful events when you do not have the budget to hire more temporary staff. This workshop will go over the basics of volunteer management and creating a culture of engagement for faculty and staff. Attendees will leave with the fundamentals of volunteer management and some ideas of how to engage your faculty and staff in the programs you put on. While this presentation is geared toward events in general, this presentation is still very useful toward academic ceremonies and will include examples from our respective ceremonies.
While commencement is often viewed as a ‘special event’, it is far more than just a celebration of achievement for grads and their guests. Commencement is also a unique and final opportunity for campus administration to convey deeply held values that have evolved over years within the campus community. Utilizing rituals and traditions, commencement may be used as a tool to create concise messaging around the university’s identity and reinforce affinities attendees have to the university.
The University of Iowa has given commencement a new look and feel, slowly evolving each aspect of the ceremony to serve graduates and guests with a modern feel. The Commencement Team was formed with four members and a supervisor. Within 5 years, our team has redesigned the commencement program, reduced waste, opened a public ordering portal, changed the stage piece by piece, increased visibility, and formed partnerships across the campus community- all while putting forth a message of sustainability, commitment to student success and welcoming guests to our celebration.
Are you struggling with managing accessibility arrangements for graduands and guests with disabilities? Learn how McMaster University facilitates online pre-reservation of accommodations, including barrier-free seating, Personal Support Workers (PSWs), ASL-English translation, and additional graduand- and guest- centred requirements. An orientation to Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART) speech captioning technology will follow a brief demonstration of McMaster’s online system. The session will conclude with a group discussion regarding challenges and best practices for accommodating graduands and guests with disabilities, with a focus on providing an exceptional experience for all ceremony attendees.
Join colleagues from the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University as they share the ins and outs of planning and delivering a joint honorary degree conferral ceremony. Learn how they collaborated to respect the traditions and protocols of two university institutions, the honoree – a religious and international leader, a representative of The Crown, three levels of government and three Indigenous communities.
Oregon State University (Corvallis, OR) holds one ceremony that graduates over 4,200 graduates receiving their actual diplomas with over 24,500 guests in attendance. Rhode Island College (Providence, RI) holds one ceremony that graduates 1,200 graduates with over 9,500 guests in attendance. One is held in outside (rain or shine) in a football stadium; the other in an indoor ceremony in a hockey arena. One is a well-established ceremony with over 40 years of established traditions. The other – an evolving ceremony with adaptations of new traditions and was completely re imagined and reorganized in 2019. What do these two very different ceremonies have in common or not? This session will compare and contrast many aspects of these two ceremonies including planning processes, budgets, institutional traditions, President/Provost/leadership involvement, change management, institutional governance, etc. Will also compare what both ceremonies have in common: planning and executing a student/family centered, inclusive ceremony that celebrates our graduates.
The diploma is one of the most important documents a student will receive in their lives. It is a symbol of years of hard work and dedication. One of our many jobs in the Commencement Office is to ensure that the diploma process goes seamless from start to finish. One challenge for Northeastern University is the management and distribution of over 2,000 diplomas at the University’s Commencement in May. This session will discuss the process of diploma distribution at Northeastern University from beginning to end.
Step back in time to the 1930’s World Fair as you tour the Corporate Showcase during the opening night reception. Attendees will receive a sponsor passport to help them find their way to each exhibitor. Once completed by visiting and receiving a stamp from each exhibitor, your completed sponsor passport can be entered into the grand prize drawing to take place at our closing ceremony. The grand prize is a voucher to be used toward expenses for the 2021 NAACO annual conference. Don’t miss this opportunity to explore the World’s Fair, win prizes, and network!
Attendees are encouraged to wear their college and university attire as part of this fun and casual event.
Whether you are responsible for event planning at your institution or work in a registrar’s office, you know that unexpected circumstances and situations can arise in your daily work and convocation is no exception. From late grads to discontent guests, we do our best to establish contingency plans in an effort to address these issues with efficiency.
11 ceremonies over 4 days . . . what could possibly go wrong? While we often talk about the necessity for emergency plans, it is often the one item that gets put off or overlooked during the planning process in favor of the more pressing issues or items. In this session, learn from the lived experiences of two of your colleagues and hear “what happened when the lights went out”. If a full ‘plan’ seems a daunting task, presenters will provide you with a list of important considerations for your planning process as well as helpful tips that you can use to ensure a more successful and safe convocation.
The investiture of the 7th president of California State University, Los Angeles combined multiple events to set the tone for William A. Covino’s presidency. The week-long programming encompassed all aspects and areas of the University: academics, facilities, budget and finance, student life, athletics, fundraising, and external relations. There were 10 events created and/or incorporated for the week to showcase the multifaceted efforts to achieve the president’s initiative of engagement, service, and the public good. The monumental task of organizing, planning, managing, and executing several events during the same week could not be achieved without the collaborative efforts of the campus community to celebrate its successes in innovation, community partnership, and global leadership. The presentation will cover committee structures, leadership roles, budget planning, cross departmental mobilization, and event management.
Graduates and guests always tell us that the most important part of commencement is the individual recognition. They care deeply about their moment in the sun – but couldn’t care less about anyone else’s. There is a growing trend at ceremonies where guests are brazenly walking out as soon as they have crossed the stage.
In this workshop, you’ll learn specific tools, strategies and special touches that will help keep butts in seats for the duration!
At UCI, We have a graduate hooding ceremony for all graduates completing a terminal degrees that is separate from our other ceremonies. During this ceremony, all graduates have their names called on stage and are hooded by their advisers who have been identified ahead of time. We review the planning process every year to look for ways to improve and shorten the ceremony. In 2019, 330 graduates participate in this ceremony, with about 175 hooders, and the ceremony lasted about an hour and 45 minutes long. This was the fastest ceremony for the largest amount of graduates we have ever had participate in this ceremony.
This is a campus-wide celebration that includes participation in the platform party by our chancellor, provost, vice chancellors, deans, assistants deans, and many others.
The importance of selecting the right vendor for your Commencement. We will discuss the lasting impression vendors have on your guests, the importance of building relationships with your vendors, and how vendors can share their vast experience to help bridge the various cultures of your attendees.
The University of Georgia will share strategies for managing the platform party. From initial communications with participants to commemorative photos following the event, we will give you our best practices and lessons learned on how to coordinate the platform party successfully. Tips will include informational memos, platform party room emergency supplies, transportation logistics, and seating arrangements. Recent speakers included Ryan Seacrest, presidential historian Jon Meacham, and Lady Antebellum’s Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley.
Because Commencement is a formal time at an institution, some are set on keeping all traditions the same, despite numerous student requests to update it.
Oakland University, a predominately white institution, heard the voices our students and began providing new diverse traditions the students requested. Our goal was to create a diverse and inclusive atmosphere that would meet the needs of all minority students.
In this session you will learn what we are doing to ensure that all of our students are engaged in commencement activities across campus and feel comfortable attending the formal commencement ceremony.
Having learned about commencement fairs at a NAACO conference, we thought we’d give it a go, as well. Our goal was to find a way to make sure all students know they are cleared to graduate and that everyone gets a cap and gown. Jay will talk about researching best practices, actual results, and a list of “worse practices” that we’ll never do again!
When a tornado tore through Lubbock, Texas prior to Texas Tech University commencement in 1970,graduation was cancelled. In 2000, on the thirtieth anniversary of the storm, the 1970 class was invited to return for that year’s graduation. This session will document a successful collaboration between the university and alumni association in coordinating and hosting an anniversary commencement that made national news and still resonates to this day.
Walk though the checklists, event plans, production schedules, and communication timelines that Georgia Tech uses to prepare for their commencement and other academic events. This presentation focuses on the documentation created and used to run the ceremony from start to end of semester and how they are used during the event planning process.
California Lutheran University is located in Thousand Oaks, California and has been listed year after year as one of the safest communities in the United States.
Unfortunately, large gatherings have become frequent targets and we engaged the expertise of our Campus Safety, Thousand Oaks Police Department and outside event security team to review our emergency operation plans and procedures to ensure the safety of our graduates and commencement guests.
Being ever watchful with an emergency plan and procedure that will make you feel confident and able to celebrate your commencement achievement.
At our institution, ceremonial protocol was something like an urban legend. Items of protocol were passed around verbally, but details were sometimes changed to suit a specific situation. As the organizers of graduation, my colleagues and I were finding it increasing difficult to answer questions and respond to requests related to protocol. So, I set off on a journey to develop protocol guidelines. After much research and consultation, four sets of protocol guidelines were approved by the Senate Executive: Indigenous Inclusions, Hooding, Stage-Crossing and Regalia. I’ll share with you the steps it took to get to the approval stage and how the team at Wilfrid Laurier University uses the guidelines.
Attendees will board buses beginning at 3:00 to travel to University of Chicago’s Max Palevsky Cinema for a glimpse of the university’s convocation, presentation and group photo.
Session Description: Planning and executing Convocation Weekend requires buy-in and support from a variety of campus partners. Join Barb Siska, Executive Director of Events and Ceremonies at The University of Chicago, as she and five campus partners will share their experience in executing Convocation weekend.
“It Takes a Village”
- Brian Donahue, Associate Director for College Events, College Programming and Orientation
- Danika Kmetz, Assistant Director, College Communications
- Mark Peters, Senior Director of News and Content, University Communications
- Kristen Reid-Salomon, Assistant Dean of Students, Social Service Administration
- Erin Sandona, Store Manager, University of Chicago Bookstore
- Barb Siska, CSEP, Executive Director of Events and Ceremonies