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  February 2, 2004

Committee Created To Review Commencement

A 19-member committee has been created to take a broad look at the goals and objectives of Commencement at UConn, and to suggest ways that graduation ceremonies can be more accommodating and fulfilling for students and their parents.

The committee is being convened and will be chaired by Provost John D. Petersen. The group will review all Storrs-based Commencement activities, and will consult with the Health Center and the Law School, which hold separate Commencement ceremonies.

"I'm very excited about the inception of the Commencement Policy Committee," Petersen says. "Given the increasing size of our graduating classes, the changing needs of our graduates and their families, and the success we have had with programs at our regional campuses, in our honors programs, and other related entities, the time has come to do a comprehensive audit and develop some policy statements."

Freshman enrollment at Storrs has increased nearly 60 percent since 1997, and that bubble began working its way through the system last May, when a near-record crowd of more than 3,400 students graduated. Last month, the University staged its first December Commencement, in Jorgensen Auditorium, and more than 400 of the 650 or so eligible students participated.

"The needs and desires of our graduates and their families are constantly changing. We should be continually assessing our graduates' needs against what we can do at UConn, operationally. At the same time, we should be anticipating what the next iteration of graduation will look like," Petersen says.

UConn officials have long had concerns about the practice of scheduling two undergraduate Commencement exercises in May, which creates logistical problems and contributes to the difficulty of obtaining a keynote speaker. As class sizes increase, Petersen and others also are concerned about the number of tickets that are allotted to each graduating student, which may have to be rationed as the number of graduates increases.

"The policy group will look across all Commencement-related activities and make recommendations to me and University President Philip Austin on what policies should be in place in order to deliver what our graduates need," Petersen says.

The committee, which includes three deans and an assistant dean, leaders in the graduate and undergraduate student governments, the Senate Executive Committee and others, will hold its first meeting Feb. 4. Petersen says he hopes the committee can offer recommendations by March, with an eye to the December 2004 ceremony.

Graduate ceremonies will be held this year on Saturday, May 8, and undergraduate ceremonies on Sunday, May 9. The Health Center will hold its Commencement ceremony on May 16, and the Law School on May 23.

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