The Mace – October 2021


Message From the President

Dear NAACO Colleagues and Friends,

Fall on campuses is a time of reawakening with returning students creating a buzz and energy that impacts everyone. While this year is not quite the same, campus life is returning and it is more important than ever to lean into your NAACO network for connection, inspiration, and yes, a little LOVE. 

What more fitting time and place for us to be gathering, whether it be virtually or in person, for the 2022 Annual Conference than on Valentine’s Day in the City of Brotherly (or Sisterly) Love (February 14–16). The LOVE sculpture in Philadelphia symbolizes “what we hope for, cherish, and memorialize,” all concepts that are central to the moments that are created at ceremonies every year. There is so much to share from our experiences this past year and I can’t wait to be inspired by what you have all discovered and created. 

There were shifts that happened within NAACO this past year that were necessary because of circumstances, but we now recognize them as opportunities to strengthen benefits for members. 

  • The virtual tradeshow at the conference was so successful, we are hosting another one this fall so that members can connect with vendors earlier in their planning process.
  • The New to NAACO meeting that happened prior to the conference was so successful the programming is being expanded throughout the year to better support new members beyond a single meeting at the annual conference.
  • Virtual programming at the 2021 conference expanded our reach and accessibility for more people at member institutions to attend and this is continuing with a hybrid conference in 2022, virtual regional workshops, and more Hot Topic calls.

At the source of everything that NAACO does is our membership. I encourage you to get involved. Whether it is hosting a regional meeting, joining a committee, presenting at the conference, enrolling in the certificate program, or sharing your questions and ideas in the online forum, NAACO Connect, there is so much to learn and so much to share.  

This is your association. Your contributions, experience, and vision are needed to help us continue to grow and provide greater benefit to all members. We are currently seeking nominees for the following board positions.

  • President Elect 
  • Director at Large – Education
  • Secretary

Nominations close on November 12. NAACO 2022 Board Nomination Form

Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about these positions or other NAACO matters. Board colleagues, executive director, Sara Wood, and I are always available to you.  

I wish you all well for the fall term and I look forward to meeting you online or at the annual conference.


Claire Alexander
President, NAACO Board of Directors
Manager, Office of Ceremonies and Events / University of Guelph


Review From Hot Topic Call: Developing Stunning Presentations
Gabrielle Martinez
Graduation & Curriculum Data Specialist
New Mexico State University

My fellow NAACO colleagues and I were excited to hear from our resident rock stars, Zarrah Holvick and Marcus Jones in a Hot Topic Call. They are both engaging, energetic, and enthusiastic speakers that always fill the capacities of their online or in-person presentations, so learning from these professionals was something we all were excited to see.

When it comes to developing a stunning presentation, I got quite a bit of takeaways from Marcus and Zarrah. The most important take away from the presentation was to plan not only your speech content but also your mind and body beforehand. Breathing can calm your body, voice, and make you aware of your surroundings.

Be yourself, your natural jesters and natural demeanor give you that honesty and engagement from your audience. Practice makes perfect. Try your best to practice to yourself and then recreate the environment of practicing in front of a crowd. Zarrah mentioned to record yourself, if possible. With a recording, you can see your body language. Body language is such a powerful tool to engage your audience with your eyes, hands, and confident posture. Make note of your body ticks and possible distractions, and keep those knees lose.

Warm up the muscles in your mouth and keep your mind awake before making a big presentation. Recite an awesome tongue twister or a vocal rollercoaster. Again, do not forget to take a breath. Breathing and projecting your voice with your diaphragm is crucial. Do not strain your voice. The audience will notice this change in your speech and it will cause your voice to crack by the end of the speech. 

Overall, get out of your comfort zone and present on that topic that you know like the back of your hand. Alternatively, you can even challenge yourself to a research project. Research that topic you have been yearning to learn more about and talk about it in a presentation. Audience feedback and discussion can even further your research on the topic. I hope our resident rock stars have given you some tools and you might want to present in a future Hot Topic or even at the Annual Conference.


Hot Topic Recap: Getting Involved With NAACO
Lacy Dailey
University Events Manager
American Public University System

As a member of NAACO and an active member of the Communications Committee, I realized that our organization cannot run alone and requires involvement from our members, but I had never really ventured outside of the Communications Committee. When the Hot Topics Calls in August were advertised, this particular session caught my eye. 

Members of the NAACO board each had a chance to present on what their role is within the organization, as well as their involvement journey within NAACO. The NAACO board consists of president, president elect, past president, treasurer, secretary, director-at-large, communications, director-at-large, membership, and director-at-large, education. What is most notable about all the panelists is that they all began their NAACO career as just a member of a committee, wanting to be involved in the association in any way possible.

Each committee member then went on about the purpose of their respective committees and made a call for volunteer committee members. If you have been thinking of becoming involved in NAACO, all committees are seeking members. Reach out to a committee chair to learn more about how you can be involved and fill out this form to express interest.


Updates From the Education Committee
James Vitagliano
Associate Dean of Enrollment Services/Registrar
MGH Institute of Health Professions
NAACO, Director at Large of Education

Greetings to the NAACO membership from the Education Committee! My name is Jim Vitagliano and as of August 2021, I have assumed the role of director-at-large, education for NAACO. There are lots of great things happening on the education front and I thought this would be a great opportunity to update the membership on the work of this fantastic committee!

I’d like to start by thanking Liz McMahan for all of her incredible hard work and dedication while she was in this role, and we wish her much success as she begins her new role as president-elect!  She, along with the members of this great committee, have laid the groundwork for very important work that serves our community in so many ways.

Our committee is made up of the following members: Ann Acob, Pacific Northwest University of the Sciences, Theawiana Bracewell, Oakland University, Michelle Curreri, University of Rhode Island, Marcus Jones, Arizona State University (Committee Chair), Stephanie Lee, Oakland University, Patricia Nolin, Rhode Island College, Amber Sega, California Baptist University, and Sariah Tillotson, University of Nevada, Reno. This incredible team works hard to review and approve content for our annual conference, arrange topics and content for Hot Topic calls, and oversee the content and delivery of the Certificate Program. If you are interested in joining the committee, please fill out this form!

Currently, we are in the process of accepting proposals for the annual conference and will begin our review and selection process in October. We hope that you might consider presenting at the conference and share your expertise and knowledge with our membership. We are also looking for members to sponsor Hot Topic calls, so let us know if you would be interested in that opportunity. The best way for us to grow and build our community is to share information with each other, so your experiences and suggestions are an integral part of that community building.

One other exciting project that the committee is about to begin is the conversion of our current Year 1 Certificate Program content to our new Learning Management System. The conversion to the new platform will enhance the experience by providing a more streamlined presentation of the content and a much-improved system of review and noted progression throughout the program. We will launch the new version of Year 1 content with the incoming class of 2022. Year 2 content will be the next step in the conversion process with the goal of having that content ready for that incoming class as they progress into Year 2 of the program. Participants who will complete Year 1 of the program in 2021 will remain on the current platform for Year 2 for the sake of consistency. The committee is thrilled to begin the conversion and we look forward to continued growth and development of the program in the future!

Again, we welcome new committee members, urge you to present at the conference, or present a Hot Topic call. We look forward to the conference in February and hope to see you there!


Join NAACO in Philadelphia!
Ellen Liebman
Associate Director of Administration
College of Arts and Sciences
University of Pennsylvania

The 2022 Annual Conference will be held in Philadelphia, PA, at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, February 14­­–16, and also virtually via an app. We hope that this will allow a maximum number of people to attend, whether you are able to travel or not!

The Planning Committee just had its first kick-off meeting and there’s lots of excitement surrounding planning for people to get together in person and how best to make that happen safely, something that we are all dealing with in our day jobs.

I will be your conference chair—both as a local host and general planner. I just rotated off the board after serving for a little more than 3.5 years as director-at-large for communications and the board has enticed me to continue volunteering for NAACO in this new role. I have lived in Philadelphia (and its environs) my entire life and have been working at the University of Pennsylvania for 24 years, almost 13 of which have been occupied by planning graduation for the College of Arts and Sciences (roughly 1,600 students each year crossing the stage in our outdoor football stadium). I am looking forward to welcoming you to my city and my university—and likely expounding on the details of a proper cheesesteak and where to get the best ones (there are multiple correct answers!).

The conference will be filled with carefully curated educational sessions and keynote speeches, which should be as engaging and fascinating as we all are. The conference schedule has been posted on the NAACO site and is fairly well set at this point thanks to the efforts of the board and HQ, although some changes are apt to come along.

Registration is now open, also through the NAACO site, so be sure to register as soon as you can and start making travel plans to visit Philadelphia in February! Even if you can’t be here in person, register to attend virtually and join in the fun and learning that the NAACO Annual Conference always offers! See you in February!


Conferral of Posthumous Degrees
Patricia Nolin
Coordinator, College Events and Conference Services
Rhode Island College

Colleges and universities have many policies and procedures that are closely followed by the office of commencement. We at Rhode Island College are no exception. All academic requirements for the granting of degrees, as well as the requirements allowing potential degree candidates to participate and “walk” in the commencement ceremonies, are adhered to. The policy of granting a posthumous degree is one that requires the utmost care. The campus community relies on those that coordinate the ceremony to ensure that not only the proper protocols are followed, but the sensitivity, intimacy, and personal involvement of college personnel needed for the recognition of the achievement occurs.  

The college’s Committee on Academic Policies and Procedures revised the policy of granting a posthumous degree in 2019. The policy recognizes the academic achievements of a student who was enrolled at the college at the time of their passing and aims to commemorate their achievement for the benefit of the student’s family, as well as the campus community.

The policy was designed to establish “consistent criteria for the awarding of a posthumous degree or certificate of attendance.” Upon notification of a student’s passing, the provost or his/her designee reviews the student’s record to determine eligibility for either a posthumous degree or certificate of attendance. For a degree conferral, the student must have been enrolled at the time of death, unless their continuous enrollment was interrupted by injury, illness, or deployment. The student must have been in good standing with the college at the time of death, meaning the student would have earned the needed cumulative GPA and not have been on academic probation, suspension, dismissal, or expulsion. The student must have earned the required minimum academic credits. If it is determined the student did not meet the credit criteria, a posthumous certificate of attendance would be awarded. The student, having completed the appropriate minimum number of credits at the college, would be granted the certificate in recognition of “the student’s significant progress toward the attainment of a degree.”

Once the guidelines and necessary requirements are met and the proper signatures are signed, the process can begin to discuss the conferral. As a commencement officer and coordinator, you begin to realize that the ceremony will call for you to handle all particulars with extraordinary care and a compassionate heart. I wished to bring attention to this type of ceremony and share my experiences in the hope of creating a dialogue and an avenue for others to share their experiences, assisting others through the process of planning such a ceremony.

Throughout my tenure at Rhode Island College, I have been responsible for the coordination of awarding a posthumous degree during the actual commencement ceremony on two occasions. Family members accepted the diploma on behalf of their child and sister, respectively. I soon came to realize that this part of the ceremony was highly emotional and personal. It is so much more than following procedure. My focus was to respect the family’s wishes, to be a shoulder for them, and to guarantee that respect and gentility would be observed. My pledge to them was to make sure they could be confident that as the day approached, they would know what to expect and how dedicated all personnel at the college were to ensure the honor of their loved one. There had also been times when, appropriately, the president of the college held a private conferral in the president’s office along with the provost.

During this past summer, however, I sensed that the pandemic brought a new and heightened sensitivity to the awarding of a posthumous degree. The college awarded two posthumous degrees between May and August of this year. In light of COVID-19, a personal acceptance of the degree during the actual “commencement walk” would not have been appropriate due to the altered ceremony procedures and health and safety protocols. Thus, both families were brought together in separate ceremonies designed specifically to honor their Rhode Island College graduate. What followed was a new level of sensitivity of the recognition. I witnessed and became aware of the important relationship the college community develops with the family. The ceremony was an opportunity to share, grieve, and honor the accomplishment of the student. It is a significant milestone achieved by the deceased and a memorable, proud occasion for the family. 

My role in working closely with the administration, faculty, and family members was to make sure all individuals could share their expectations for the ceremony. Adhering to all COVID protocols, including mask mandates, social distancing, and capacity limitations, brought another level of care and concern. As a coordinator, I was the liaison to bring the ceremony to fruition. The conversations that transpired needed to instill that all involved would have their wishes respected. I experienced how the loss was felt by all. Our faculty and administration, as well as our office, shares in the sorrow. Although the loss affects each attendee differently, the magnitude of the grief associated with the loss of the loved one is felt profoundly by those in the campus community.      

As commencement officers, we share in this loss. We are relied upon to see to all the details for the proper ceremony, yet the emotional charge is heightened. We are keenly aware of and appreciate the compassion needed in the planning process. It is also an opportunity for us to confirm and affirm our responsibility to our campus communities and how we can fully serve the students, the families, faculty, and administrators of our institutions.

I would like to encourage members to join in the conversation and share how their institutions have experienced the conferral of posthumous degrees on NAACO Connect.


Update from NAACO Headquarters

It’s hard to believe that it’s already October, but your NAACO HQ staff is hard at work to bring you new resources and benefits as we head into the holiday season. Here is what you need to know:

The launch of the new Learning Management System. Coming this fall, we will have a brand new LMS platform to house our video archive and educational content. This is phase two of our technology upgrades, and we can’t wait to share the new system with you.

Register for the conference. Whether you plan to attend in person in Philadelphia or prefer to attend virtually, the NAACO Conference is being held February 14–16, 2022. Registration is now available, and we can’t wait to see you there!

Check out NAACO Connect. As part of our phase one technology upgrade, we launched the brand-new NAACO Connect site. Already an active new home for our community, you will be able to take part in conversations, check out upcoming events, and share content with each other.

Renew now. If you have not yet renewed, please do so as soon as possible. The grace period will end on October 31, and if you have not yet renewed your institution by then, your benefits and member pricing will be terminated. To renew, visit and log in to your member profile.

As always, the NAACO HQ team is here for you. If you have any questions about these or any other member benefits, please do not hesitate to contact us at

Sara L. Wood, MBA, CAE
NAACO Executive Director


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