Commencement approaching soon

Four years ago a group of freshmen walked onto Liberty’s campus. They came from all around the world, excited and ready to begin the next chapter of their lives.

Fast forward to the present day. Those bright-eyed freshmen, now seniors, are tired, immune to caffeine and counting down to the day they thought would never arrive — May 15, 2010 — graduation.

According to Vice President for Administrative Information Management/Registrar Larry Shackleton approximately 4,300 students will be attending the graduation ceremony. Of those students 61 percent are online students who will be on Liberty’s campus for the first time.

“The online students love the fact that we include them in our big main ceremony,” Shackleton said. “We don’t treat them separate. We embrace them. There is not one (ceremony) for them and one for the residential students.”

According to Shackleton and the graduation project manager Lori Baker the average student brings six family members with them, so 28,000 people are expected to attend commencement.

Liberty does not hand out tickets for graduation so students can bring as many family members and friends with them to the ceremony as they would like.

“Everybody that helped you get through all this and wants to share this with you, come on down,” Shackelton said. “It is a family event and you would be surprised how many people helped every student a little bit here and there.”

The main commencement ceremony will take place in Williams Stadium, which is undergoing construction and will not be completed by graduation. According to Shackleton, guests will not be able to get anywhere near the construction, however the construction has created interesting obstacles for seating and restroom facilities.

“Nine thousand five hundred chairs will be placed on the field, last year there were 8,000,” Shackleton said.

Temporary bleachers are also being constructed from the edge of the visitors’ locker room to around the third yard line. According to Shackleton those bleachers will probably be the best seats in the house.

Bleachers are also being built above the seating already in place and along the sidelines. Most of the existing seating in the stadium will be available. Approximately 400 seats will be unavailable due to construction, but three out of the four new sections of seating that extend from the original seats should be completed by graduation, according to Shackleton.

In order to help alleviate traffic and congestion that can occur with 28,000 people on campus at the same time, the gates will open at 7 a.m., three hours before commencement ceremonies begin.

Shackleton said parking should not be a problem because most students will have left campus, leaving student parking areas open for public use.

“There will be a Campus North (bus) route and a main campus (bus) route,” Baker said.

Baker recommends attendees park in a lot near their degree ceremony so they will not have to walk far when they leave.

“For people who are not capable of walking we will have about 15 golf carts to meet people at their cars and take them to where they need to be,” Shackleton said.

Due to the construction, the restrooms that were underneath the press box will not be available. Nine portable toilet trailers will be brought in to ensure there are enough restrooms for everyone at the event.

“They are not portolets. They have hot water and flushing toilets,” Shackelton said.

Another change this year that students need to be aware of is that there will not be a rehearsal the Friday before graduation.

“(Students) still have to come and pick up their name tags and honors cords, and that kind of stuff,” Shackelton said.

Students can pick up these items between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. at the Tolsma Indoor Track.

Students with multiple family members graduating should also be aware that they can attend any degree ceremony so family members do not have to pick which ceremony to go to.

Students will need to be at the soccer field by 7:30 a.m. and the processional is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m., according to Shackelton.

Shackelton does not worry about student pranks, though he said many other schools threaten students not to attempt any pranks.

“We have good students and they are going to have a little bit of fun,” Shackelton said. “Silly string is part of that, and faculty have just as much fun with it … There will be a beach ball. But when it comes time to stop, they do. We have never had any problems. Our students are good people. They respect the moment.”

As a final note to graduating students, Shackelton recommends students get their silly string now.

“Within a week of commencement you can’t find silly string anywhere,” Shackelton said.

More information about commencement is available at

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