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Separate graduation ceremonies planned for three schools

by Richard Veilleux - February 5, 2007

The schools of education, pharmacy, and fine arts in May will have individual commencement ceremonies, as the University takes a first, tenuous step away from the two massive ceremonies it has convened for decades.

Speakers will be selected by individual school committees.

"We've been edging ever closer to maximum capacity in Gampel Pavilion, and were at the point where we would have to consider limiting tickets," says Michael Darre, chair of the Commencement Committee and University Marshall.

"So we asked whether anybody would be interested in developing their own ceremony, and these schools stepped forward."

Darre says having separate events is being done on an experimental basis, and a decision on whether to continue offering the multiple ceremonies - and extend them to other schools and colleges - will be made in the months following this year's ceremonies.

"The test is whether the students enjoy it," says David Woods, dean of fine arts, "that they don't feel left out, isolated from the other graduates."

So far, so good, he says, noting that when the idea was posed to the school's Student Advisory Council, "every student member felt it would be a better opportunity for our students to be recognized, to walk across the stage, and have their name read."

The Faculty Advisory Council concurred, he says.

School of Pharmacy officials have held a hooding ceremony in the Lewis B. Rome Ballroom prior to graduate commencement exercises since 2003.

This May, school officials will continue the tradition, and add the distribution of diplomas to the hooding of about 90 Pharm.D. students.

The PharmD is a professional degree, required to sit for licensure in Connecticut.

At the mid-way point in the program, students are awarded a bachelor's degree in pharmacy studies; they then continue their education for two more years.

Elizabeth Anderson, director of marketing and communications for the school, says the about 100 students who will earn their bachelor's degree this semester will continue to join students from other schools at the regular undergraduate ceremony.

Following that ceremony, the students and their parents will return to the Pharmacy Building for a reception.

Richard Schwab, dean of the Neag School of Education, says school officials leaped at the chance to have their own ceremony.

"We've wanted to do this for a number of years," he says.

"It will allow us to give individual recognition to each of our students, personalize the ceremony, have their name read. That's impossible to do at the larger ceremony."

The speaker at the first solo ceremony will be Raymond Neag, the philanthropist whose $21 million donation helped propel the school into the ranks of the nation's finest.

"Ray will speak from the heart," says Schwab.

"And during the reception after the ceremony, the students and their parents can meet Ray and Carole (Neag) and the faculty.

"Our intent is to have a professional event, celebratory and classy, and establish our own set of traditions," Schwab adds.

Woods, the art school dean, also says that, if the school decides to continue offering a separate event, it should be special, with a nationally recognized speaker as well as a graduate of the school "who has made it big."

"I hope it's a meaningful experience for the students," Woods says.

"That's the bottom line."

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