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Graduate School

Instructions for Commencement Week 2017

If you have questions not covered in these instructions, call 615-322-2870 or email

Wednesday, May 10

  • 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Students may pick up caps, gowns, tassels and hoods at the Barnes & Noble at Vanderbilt by presenting a photo ID.
    Anyone presenting your Vanderbilt ID may pick up regalia (Cap and Gown) for you. Regalia are not available on Alumni Lawn.
  • 9:00 p.m. THE PARTY at The Commons Center Lawn. More information »

Thursday, May 11

  • 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Students may pick up caps, gowns, tassels and hoods at the Barnes & Noble at Vanderbilt by presenting a photo ID.
    Anyone presenting your valid Vanderbilt ID may pick up regalia (cap and gown) for you. Regalia are not available on Alumni Lawn.
  • 9:45 a.m. All degree candidates, family and friends are invited to be seated on the floor of Memorial Gymnasium. Seating is open and not dictated by school. Dress is business casual.
    Please do not bring any backpacks or large bags into the gymnasium.
  • 11:00 a.m. Senior Class Day speaker, Memorial Gymnasium. More Information »

Friday, May 12 (Commencement Day)

  • 7:30 – 8:15 a.m. Out of town students who arrive in Nashville just before the exercises can obtain regalia (cap and gown) at the Barnes & Noble at Vanderbilt by presenting a photo ID. Anyone presenting your Vanderbilt ID may pick up regalia for you. Regalia are not available on Alumni Lawn.
  • 8:25 a.m. Students and faculty report to assembly areas to line up for the Commencement Procession. Promptness in lining up is imperative. Graduate School degree-candidates will be given additional instructions for the individual Graduate School ceremony when they report for the main ceremony. Procession is for degree candidates only. The Graduate School will assemble in the following order and place:
    • Graduate School and School of Engineering Master’s degree candidates (M.A., M.S., M.A.T., M.F.A., M.L.A.S., M.Eng., and Ph.D.) will line up in single file (not in alpha order) beginning between McGill Hall and Tolman Hall facing Alumni Lawn (see DARK BLUE line on the Assembly Area map). The assembly area will be indicated by DARK BLUE signs designating degrees. Faculty line up behind the dean and banner bearer, but in front of the degree candidates.
  • STUDENTS: Bottled water and fans are available on the perimeter of the seating area. Please pick these up before you line up.  Programs will be available at the front of each procession line. Caps are normally worn throughout the exercises. Hoods are worn by all except those receiving bachelor degrees.
  • GUESTS should be seated on Alumni Lawn no later than 8:30 a.m. to see the procession. Bottled water, programs and fans are available on the perimeter of the seating area. Please advise your guests to pick these up on the way to their seats.
  • 9:00 a.m. The procession of candidates enters Alumni Lawn to seating reserved for candidates and faculty as guided by faculty marshals. After students are seated and at the second trumpet signal, the academic procession (the order of procession will be printed in your Commencement Program) will move toward the platform.
  • 10:15 a.m. Recession of graduate and professional school degree recipients and their faculties as instructed by the chair of the Faculty Senate from the platform. These groups will depart as led by a faculty marshal.
  • 11:00 a.m. - Hooding And Diploma-awarding Ceremony And Reception
    Immediately following the main ceremony Graduate School degree recipients should line up alphabetically according to degree behind designating signs on Magnolia Circle Lawn.
    After the ceremony there will be a reception for graduates and their guests on Magnolia Circle Lawn.
  • 12:30 – 2:00 p.m. Informal luncheon for faculty participating in the graduation exercises. Buttrick Hall Atrium.

Academic Regalia (Cap and Gown)

A strong tradition of Commencement, both at Vanderbilt University and at universities in general, is the wearing of uniform academic regalia. The uniformity of regalia, inconsistent only by reason of the particular degree being conferred and by distinctions for individual honors achieved, e.g. Founder’s Medals and class marshal ribbons, symbolizes that each graduate has fulfilled the same requirements for that degree.

Returning Regalia (Cap and Gown)

Student regalia must be returned by Monday, May 15th, by Noon at the Barnes & Noble at Vanderbilt

Delay in returning your regalia will make you liable for payment of an additional fee. Masters, Bachelors return Gown only, keep tassel and cap for souvenir. All Doctors return all gown, tam with tassel and hood.

Faculty should pick up and return regalia as instructed by their dean’s office.

Participation in Commencement Exercises

Degree candidates must have completed successfully all curriculum requirements and have passed all prescribed examinations by the published deadlines to be allowed to participate in the ceremony. Participating students should plan to attend the main ceremony. Guests and participants will be expected to remain at the respective ceremonies until the conclusion. Much depends on the courtesy and cooperation of all who attend.

Students unable to participate in the graduation ceremony will receive their diploma by mail.

A student completing degree requirements in August or December 2017 will be invited to participate in Commencement exercises in May 2018.

Inclement Weather

In the event of inclement weather the ceremony will be held in Memorial Gymnasium. If in doubt, check the Commencement website or call the Vanderbilt telephone operators at 615-322-7311. You may also sign up for the Commencement App for your mobile device which will receive regular updates. 

In Memorial Gym there will be no procession for candidates.

Graduate & Professional: (arrive by 8:15 a.m.) Promptness in arrival is imperative

Degree candidates should enter through the “Student Entrance” located on the south side facing the baseball field and make their way to the west end of the court via the “Southwest Connector.” Graduate School candidates will sit in section 3L. Watch for signs and Faculty Marshals to assist.

Faculty (arrive by 8:30 a.m.) who will be staying for the undergraduate diploma-awarding ceremony, and marching in procession, should enter through the Procession Party Entrance (to the right of the main entrance doors) located on the East side of the gym facing 25th Ave.

The hooding and diploma ceremony will take place on Magnolia Circle Lawn as scheduled rain or shine. 

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Future Commencement Dates

 2018  -  May 9, 10, 11
 2019  -  May 8, 9, 10
 2020 -  May 6, 7, 8

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Vanderbilt offers a complimentary early alert system for all Commencement attendees. The system is designed to inform you, via text message, if any of the main ceremonies have been moved or canceled due to weather or any unexpected circumstance.