New events augment UChicago Convocation traditions

Starting this year, Convocation weekend at the University of Chicago will include new events intended to help ensure a memorable and enjoyable experience for graduating students in the College and their families.

The College is creating a new celebration called Class Day, which will be a student-led ceremony held on the afternoon of Friday, June 9 on the Main Quadrangle. Saturday morning’s University-wide Convocation event on June 10 will continue in its existing format, including a Convocation address by a current faculty member and the verbal conferring of degrees by President Robert J. Zimmer. In the afternoon, undergraduates will receive their physical diplomas in new, smaller events according to their residence hall communities, allowing for diploma ceremonies that are less time-consuming and more personal.

“A primary purpose of Convocation is to recognize and honor this University’s intellectual community on every scale—from the University as a whole to the more intimate level of residence halls, houses and personal friendships,” said John W. Boyer, dean of the College. “These changes will add distinctive traditions that will improve the experience for graduates and their families while upholding the vision that our first president, William Rainey Harper, had for Convocation as a gathering of all the University’s many different parts.”

Class Day will celebrate graduates of the College and include student speakers who are selected annually by their peers, a guest speaker, an alumni speaker and the presentation of College awards. The ceremony is open to family and friends of graduating students as well as the larger University community. It replaces the Baccalaureate ceremony, for which attendance was limited by the size of Rockefeller Memorial Chapel.

The June 10 Convocation ceremony will carry on the University’s commitment to gathering for a shared graduation. The event represents a calling together of the entire University, with graduating students, faculty and staff from the College and graduate divisions and schools gathering to recognize educational achievement.

Undergraduate students will receive their diplomas at one of eight simultaneous College diploma ceremonies, in groups according to residence hall communities. Boyer noted that resident masters from each hall will have the opportunity to tailor the ceremonies to their graduating students, and family members will be in a better position to take pictures of students receiving their diplomas.

As in previous years, graduate divisions and schools will hold individual ceremonies for the presentation of diplomas.

A mix of grand and intimate events

As announced in 2015, this year marks the first time the University is consolidating its quarterly convocation ceremonies into a single annual event in June. The change reflects the view of the University’s deans that holding a single, unified Convocation each year will make for a more meaningful graduation experience for students.

The addition of the Class Day tradition provides a new opportunity for students to celebrate their achievements and look back on their years in the College with family and friends. Students will serve as masters of ceremonies and will increasingly oversee the planning of Class Day in the years ahead. This year, the ceremony will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Main Quadrangle. The senior class reception will be held from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. at the Museum of Science and Industry, as in previous years.

On Saturday, Convocation will start at 9:15 a.m. with a procession of the candidates. In a new change to the procession, graduate students will line up together to process into the Main Quad, and undergraduate students will pass through Cobb Gate, mirroring their opening Convocation ceremony when they arrived as first-year students. Undergraduate and graduate students will join together in the Quad for Convocation.

After the Convocation address and presentations of honorary degrees and awards, the ceremony will conclude with Zimmer conferring degrees to groups of students by academic program and degree type.

Following a lunch, graduates of the College and some graduate programs will attend their diploma ceremonies at locations around campus. Some graduate programs hold their ceremonies at different times during that week. Further details on locations for lunch and the diploma ceremonies are posted online.

“The College diploma ceremonies will give graduates a chance to celebrate their accomplishments in a more personal and unique way. We are excited to begin a tradition that provides an opportunity for families to be more involved in this important day for students,” said Jay Ellison, dean of students in the College.

Members of the community and visiting family and friends are advised that there will be street closures around campus and Midway Plaisance, and they should plan routes accordingly. More information will be posted at Convocation shuttles can be tracked at

For those unable to attend, Convocation will be webcast live at Follow the day on social media using #uchicago2017.