Turning tassles

LU plans for largest Commencement yet

With six weeks to go before 2017 Commencement, Liberty University Registrar employees along with more than 800 Liberty staff members and students are rushing to iron out the final details for the festivities May 12-13.

Associate Registrar for Operations Lori Baker said the university is expecting as many as 50,000 attendees, a significant increase from the usual average of 34,000.

U.S. President Donald Trump will likely attract non-Liberty affiliated guests, as he is the keynote speaker for the Commencement ceremony May 13.

“We are making sure we have space for the crowds,” Baker said.

“(We are) making sure transit plans work for increased crowds and making sure our grads have a seamless experience.”

The formal Commencement ceremony takes place in Williams Stadium.

The processional begins at 8:30 a.m. to ensure the approximate 6,000 graduates are seated before the ceremony starts at 10 a.m.

Additional seating and restrooms will be added to the stadium.

Both graduates and guests will be required to walk through metal detectors before entering the venue.

The university is working with Secret Service to ensure everyone is safe and the stadium is secure.

In addition, several dozen buses will shuttle people around campus for the various celebrations.

All of East Campus as well as Thomas Road Baptist Church’s parking will be used for Commencement parking, and the university is currently looking for external parking lots.

More details on the transit plan will be released to the public in the
upcoming weeks.

“Even though Commencement is a formal event, we’re always looking for ways to help students celebrate and have fun,” Baker said.

Last year, students had giant Liberty beach balls in the stadium, and Sparky, the beloved school mascot, interacted with students during the processional.

Sparky will make an appearance at this year’s ceremony, and students will have access to special Commencement-themed Snapchat filters throughout the weekend.

“Our goal of Commencement weekend is to celebrate,” Baker said.

“Celebrate with your family, classmates and faculty. Having Trump as a speaker will also help celebrate your hard work.”

While many people come together to support graduates during commencement, much of the university comes together to ensure students have a memorable experience.

“We love (planning Commencement),” Baker said.

“I don’t know many people who don’t love working on Commencement because we’re planning a celebration.”

Approximately 25 people serve as core team members for the planning process, and Baker has six employees in the Registrar’s office who work specifically on planning Commencement.

The team works together to ensure the weekend’s logistics are flawless.

Nearly every department at the university plays a part in orchestrating the celebration.

Planning starts as early as January and continues until the day of the event.

“It’s so great to work with other departments around campus because this is why we’re all here,” Baker said.

“Faculty, staff and students come together for (Commencement) weekend.”

Aside from the Commencement ceremony, Baker said there are three major events for the graduates — Graduate Reception, Baccalaureate Service and Degree Presentation Ceremonies, where students will split up to receive their degrees from their respective schools.

Other ceremonies for specific programs will also take place May 12.

The Graduate Reception, an informal meet-and-greet type event, is from 2-4 p.m.

May 12 on the main campus lawn.

The event is carnival style, and students will have the opportunity to interact with faculty and each other.

Following the reception is the Baccalaureate Service at 6 p.m. in the Vines Center with a message from James Robison of LIFE Outreach International.

For a complete schedule of events visit the registrar’s website.

Smith is a news reporter.

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