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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The send-off

Tanner Garza — THE BATTALION
Tanner Garza — THE BATTALION

Approximately 3,400 students will walk across the stage in Reed Arena Friday, marking the completion of their undergraduate or graduate studies at Texas A&M.
Commencement ceremonies are held each semester, and while the numbers are smaller in the December ceremonies, Venesa Heidick, registrar and chair of the commencement committee, said there are still about 4,000 students set to graduate, including students from the School of Law and Health Science Center.
Heidick said preparation for the commencement ceremonies starts in the beginning of the semester with the degree application process during the first five weeks of school. The amount of degree applications determines the graduation ceremony schedule so as to keep ceremonies similar in length, Heidick said.
The registrar’s office orders diplomas early in the semester so they can be reviewed for spelling and correct labeling.
“Once they’re all checked, we have a process two weeks before graduation where we take all the flat diplomas and we work in teams to roll them up and put them in diploma tubes,” Heidick said. “That’s all done by hand. We put them in tubes and store them out at Reed Arena and we have a program that checks for students who, based on a mathematical algorithm, may qualify for Latin honors. Those students, we wait to prepare their diplomas until the night before graduation so we have a probable honors list.”
Even with the prepping, Heidick said the office is still hectic the day before graduation.
“It’s such an intense experience and you work so closely with your team,” Heidick said. “We don’t leave the office that day. We have a meal brought into the office because we work straight through from the time we showed up that morning at 8 to open until we go home after the diplomas are ready to go at midnight or 1 a.m. Then we come back the next morning at Reed Arena at 6:30 in the morning and we stay there all night until the last ceremony is done and all the trucks are loaded up at 10 or 11 p.m.”
While the registrar’s office works on the diplomas Thursday, the university will host commencement convocation in Reed Arena. Lane Stephenson, director of news and information services in the Division of Marketing and Communications, said convocation is more of an informal ceremony prior to the graduation ceremonies, which allows students to hear a high-quality speaker usher them into the next phase of their lives.
This year’s speaker is Gov. Rick Perry, Class of 1972.
“The governor is an inspirational speaker, and we are excited to have him,” Stephenson said. “I am looking forward to his convocation speech.”
Reid Joseph, industrial distribution senior and former student body president, graduates in December. Joseph said hearing Perry speak is significant because he is the only Aggie governor Texas has had.
“As he culminates his career, we’re culminating ours, and so that’s a very fitting end I would say for those of us who are graduating in December,” Joseph said.
Heidick, who has been part of the registrar’s office since 2000, has participated in more than 100 commencement ceremonies. She said the ceremonies are just as intense, as the preparation. Students will go through three to four name checks before they finally cross the stage to ensure everyone remains in the correct order. Radios are used as communication tools as well as color coded cards. Heidick, who hands the diploma tubes to interim University President Mark Hussey, said these cards help communicate changes in the lineup.
“They communicate different messages so I know whether the person whose diploma is in my hand actually isn’t here so I need to set that aside,” Heidick said. “Or this person showed up, so I need to get a blank diploma tube to hand to them so that we can get them their diploma later because it got sent back. A lot of last-moment communicating to try to make everything run smoothly at the ceremony.”
Heidick described the atmosphere as electrifying because of the pressure to have everything run smoothly.
“We only have one chance to get it right,” Heidick said. “We don’t do any rehearsals, and it’s definitely a lot of students and a lot of effort to coordinate to make sure that the moment each person walks across the stage, you have their diploma in front of you for them.”
Although December’s commencement has not yet passed, Heidick said the staff is already considering May’s ceremonies. Last May, colleges like engineering and liberal arts had to limit the number of guests invited because there were close to 1,300 students in each ceremony, which is about 200 to 300 more than the preferred amount.
“In May, the number of students that we have has grown so large that we’re now looking to adding another additional day to ceremonies,” Heidick said. “In semesters past, in May we’ve had Friday, Saturday commencement ceremonies, and this coming May we’re looking at having some of those on Thursday.”
Joseph said he hopes the graduating seniors continue to live by the core values A&M upholds.
“On a personal note, I hope we leave here and confidently face the challenges that the world will have in store for us,” Joseph said. “To know that we took advantage of the time that we had here at Texas A&M and feel prepared to go out and not just meet the challenges, but excel at them.”
Commencement convocation starts at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in Rudder Auditorium. The first commencement ceremony begins at 9 a.m. Friday.

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