Every year on Mother’s Day, the University of Alaska Fairbanks has her commencement. This year over 1000 students graduated. Among these were two of my graduate students, who received their MS of Atmospheric Sciences. One of them conducted research on wildfires, and the other research on funnel clouds with me. Both will continue their education towards a PhD. Congrats!
The ceremony starts out with Alaska Native music and dances at about 1:15 pm. The academic quarter also exists despite nobody uses ct (Latin for cum tempore meaning with time) or st (sine tempore meaning without time) in the US.
The stage party consist of the President, the Deans, the Board of Regents, the Chancellor, Vice Chancellor for Research, Provost, and the Dean of the Graduate School and the President of the Alumni Association.
Then the flag bearers followed by the colleges’ Marshals lead the graduates into the Carlson Center arena while the musicians play some marshes. The graduates take their seats while the flag bearer bring the flag to the stage and the Marshal returns to re-enter the arena later with the other faculty. This year I served as the Student Marshal of the College of Natural Science and Mathematics.
After the entrance of the faculty, the National Anthem was sung by one of the graduates. Then the Chancellor addressed the graduates, the faculty and guests. The President of the University of Alaska addresses the crowd prior to the address by the the commencement speaker, an UAF alumni.
Then followed the conferring of the honorary degrees, recognition of Emeriti and Emeritae, followed by the conferring of the degrees. All of this included reading the names of the degree recipients, their degrees, and the graduates passing the stage receiving the congratulations of the Provost, Chancellor, President, and their college’s Dean. In the case of PhD degrees, it also included getting the hood placed over their heads by their major adviser and the Provost.
Going thru over 1000 degrees, it took over 4 hours. Then the class speaker was introduced and gave his speech. He was followed by the President of the Alumni Association who asked the graduates to change the location of their tassels from the right to the left which indicates that they are now graduates and alumni.
Alaska Flag song
Then a student sang the Alaska Flag song, Eight Stars on a Field of Blue. This song always gives me a goose-skin because of its text.
Then there was a great bum and tons of balloons fell down on the students and faculty. The stage party started the recession followed by faculty and graduates.
The students and faculty as well as the stage party were of course all in full regalia throughout the entire ceremony. These gowns are very heavy and do not have a very breathable fabric. This means at the end of the over 5 hours, your back hurts, and you sweat like a pig. I wonder how the students felt as their gowns were made of recycled plastic bottles.
Did I mention that you wear an outfit underneath so you can take off the gown to go to dinner to celebrate?
The regalia reflect a homage to the more than 700 years of academic traditions. Of course, not over 700 years at UAF, or in the US, but mainly Europe and Germany in particular. UAF is only 99 years old.
Three blue or black stripes on bell sleeves indicate that the wearer has a doctoral degree. Master gowns have no stripes on their oblong sleeves that are cut in an arc shape in the front. These arcs serve as kind of pockets, but were not intended to hold the cell phone and car keys. Certificate, associate, and bachelor degree recipients wear gowns with long pointy sleeves.
Baccalaureate degree students who graduate with honors (GPA greater or equal to 3.5) have a gold honor cord. Pink and gray cords indicate student leaders. Long blue-trimmed and striped gold sashes indicate graduating honor thesis scholars. They also have a single blue and gold honor cord. These graduates must have earned 12 honors credits at least. University honor scholars must have earned 27 honors credits to wear the same sash, but a double blue and gold honor cord. Red-white and blue cords mean that the wearer has served in the armed forces.
Alaska Natives and American Native students wear a red sash. Some Natives wear traditional clothing instead of the graduation gown. Hawaiian Natives have a floral sash. African Americans have a colorful sash. Various student honor societies indicate their members by their individual sashes.
There are different types of hats. Black velvet tam with a golden tassel are ordinarily worn by faculty members with doctoral degrees. Faculty members with a masters degree either wear mortarboards or velvet tams with a black tassel. Graduates wear mortarboards. Typically, the tassel is black. However, in some institution, the students and faculty wear tassels in the color of their discipline. As you see, mine is gold for sciences.
A hood indicates that the wearer has a higher academic degree than a Bachelor degree. Typically, the hood is black with the exposed inside displaying the colors of the school where the degree (MS, MA or PhD) was earned.
The small stripes on the hoods indicates the discipline of the degrees. Each discipline has their own color: Arts is white, business administration is drab, education is baby blue, engineering is orange, fine arts is brown, and sciences is yellow/gold.
My hood is not black on the outside as it is typical. I have two doctoral degrees, one in geophysics and one in meteorology. Since I did not want to wear two hoods and look like Medusa, I had a my hood custom-made to be a combination of both my schools – University of Cologne and University of Leipzig. The color of the outside of my hood represents the silver gray of the latter, while the red and white inside of my hood represent the colors of the former. These universities are among the oldest in Europe founded in 1409 and 1388, respectively.
Congratulation to the class of 2016!
Photos: G. Kramm (2016)
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