A UM-Flint First: Behind the Scenes at Commencement

May 2011 Commencement

Photo credit: Flint Journal

We did it!

I am happy to report that the University of Michigan-Flint achieved a big first over the weekend: two commencement ceremonies in one day.

This was a huge endeavor taking months of planning (and worry) in order to make the big day for our graduates go smoothly. The reason we went to two ceremonies stems from surveys we have done with students about commencement. The number one concern for students is to be able to invite many family and friends to their big day. With growing enrollment, we were also experiencing growing ceremonies, meaning that students would have to be limited to four or possibly fewer tickets for the ceremony.

After much research and consultation, we decided that two ceremonies were definitely in order. It was determined that we would do it all on the same day to keep costs as low as possible since we could re-use most of the items for both ceremonies.  And that is exactly what we did.

So, here are some fun, behind-the-scenes facts about the May 2011 Commencement:

– The dark blue draping around the perimeter of Perani Arena was a new addition this year. In previous years, the draping has been red, and our ceremony had the look of an Ohio State commencement. Not the look we wanted.

– Tape is the most essential ingredient for any commencement.

– There was a site survey done at Perani the week of commencement to go over logistics and any other change.

– This was the first ceremony in a long time when ice was not on the floor of the arena. Definitely a good thing!

– Set-up for the two ceremonies began at 6am with my arrival and the rest of the main Commencement Committee staff arriving around 7:00 a.m. I was nervous we wouldn’t be ready for the ceremony at 11:00 a.m., but our dedicated team of professionals pulled it together in no time.

– Underneath the stage, we stored tons of stuff, including bins, extra water, props, and a host of other things we might need during the ceremony.

– Stephen Landon, a faculty member from the Theatre Department who teaches set design, helped prepare the arena for the ceremony. Stephen’s involvement has improved the look of the arena immensely!

– The photo booth that was set up for graduates in the smaller arena was a last-minute idea the week of Commencement. Thanks to Jessie Hurse for pulling that off!

– We always bring extra supplies of everything in case we run out. That’s why Facilities delivers a huge truckload of stuff to Perani Arena the Friday before the big event.

– The floral arrangements are all from Vogt’s Flowers in Flint.

– All day long, we supplied our many staff and volunteers with food. It is a long, physical day setting up and taking down Commencement, so we keep people full and happy.

– During the ceremony, staff and volunteers began either working on the next ceremony, or dismantling elements of the entire day. The work never stopped.

– Robes for the faculty were brought in from a regalia company that supplies formal academic dress. We had 11 boxes of robes for faculty. The faculty put on the robes in the “robing room” next to the door of the main arena.

Let me know what you think of our Commencement ceremonies. We’re always looking for ways to improve, and we would love to hear your ideas.

And…it has to be said again and again: the Commencement Committee at UM-Flint is an amazing, hard-working group of people who are really devoted to the notion of student centeredness. I am fortunate to have them all as co-workers and friends.

Jen Hogan