What goes on behind the scenes of the commencement ceremony?


Alan Nguyen and El Guo

Graphic created featuring some of the processes of what Oregon State University Printing and Mailing does to prepare for commencement. Individuals photographed from left to right: Jennifer Hunt (she/her), Joey McIntosh (he/him), Jake Schmid, and Jeff Todd (he/him).

Skand S., News Contributor

It is that time of the year when excitement is in the air with soon-to-be graduates who will don their gowns and caps and enter a new chapter in their lives. 

With everyone cheering for the graduates’ success and the campus full of celebrations on June 17, the date of the commencement ceremony, one aspect that does not get the limelight is what goes into organizing it. 

According to Kayleen Eng, director of Commencement for the Provost’s Office, the Oregon State University Corvallis-campus commencement ceremony involves coordinating several departments within and outside of OSU.

Schools and colleges, OSU Athletics, Disability Access Services, Facilities Services, Office of Advocacy, Office of the Registrar, Printing and Mailing Services, the Department of Public Safety, Transportation Services, University Events, University Relations and Marketing, and community vendors such as Special Occasions are some of them.



Similar to the OSU Athletics events, this year’s commencement would also be adhering to the Clear Bag Policy and only allowing transparent bags and a small clutch bag inside the Reser stadium where the ceremony would be held.

According to Shanon Anderson, the associate vice president for Public Safety and chief of police at OSU, the planning for this year’s ceremony started immediately after the last commencement.

On completion of last year’s event, Anderson said that her team conducted an after action review of the event and incorporated feedback about the length of time for 26th Street from SW Western Boulevard to SW Washington Way. This year, for safety reasons, the Department of Public Safety has decided to keep the road closed a bit longer and open it up when the crowd has thinned.

On top of the regular duties of patrol, dispatch, and emergency management, the DPS is also responsible for the security of the event and traffic management and Clery compliance. The Clery compliance requires the DPS to inform the campus community of accurate information about the crimes and OSU’s campus safety.  

For traffic management, DPS is working with the Corvallis Public Works to adjust the timings of the signals during commencement so that intersections can operate more efficiently and reduce congestion.

According to City of Corvallis Public Information Officer Patrick Rollens, longer green light durations will be provided to move more vehicles through the intersection. This change is not specific to commencement and is usually put in place during rush hours on weekdays and for OSU football game days.

In addition to this, the Corvallis Fire Department has been contracted by OSU to provide emergency medical services during the commencement ceremony. Specifically, CFD will assign an incident commander, a two-person advanced life support ambulance, and nine roving EMT/medics in the crowd prior to, during and post-ceremony.



According to Eng, several measures have been taken to make the commencement as accessible as possible. The entire Reser Stadium parking lot is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. In addition to this, ADA seating has been arranged throughout the stadium along with companion seating.

On the day of commencement, shuttle buses and golf carts will run throughout campus to assist those with mobility concerns.

During the ceremony, captioning and ASL interpreters are projected on large video screens in the stadium. For the online audience, there will be two live streams, one in Spanish and one in English with respective captions.

Owing to the heat concerns, inside seating at the Reser stadium for people sensitive to the sun is also provided. 


Printing and Mailing Services

According to Steve Clark, vice president for University Relations and Marketing, OSU is one of the few major universities across the nation that provides graduates their own actual diploma on the day of Commencement. 

“This has been a decades’ long tradition at Oregon State and it emphasizes how proud the university is of all graduates and how the university recognizes how important and very personal graduation is for students and their families,” said Clark.

Last year 7, 318 students graduated with around 17.8% of them being first-generation graduates. The number this year is expected to be in the similar range and the official count would be out in June after the spring term.

OSU’s printing and mailing services are responsible for: 

  • Ceremony programs.
  • Event signage for the commencement ceremony as well as for the events hosted by individual colleges.
  • Print and mail postcards to eligible graduates prior to commencement.
  • Event passes for media and photographers.
  • The campus banners celebrating graduates.
  • Gifts and cards.

According to Jennifer Hunt, client relations manager at OSU Printing and Mailing Services, the first batch of mails for commencement was sent at the end of March and another was sent in mid-April. A third batch will be sent after spring term.

Jeff Todd, the director of PMS, said that after the admissions season during Fall, the spring time around commencement is the next busiest period for his team. For commencement, PMS usually starts getting requests around February for postcard mailings. 

One of the key aspects for PMS is coordinating with the Provost’s office. 

“I’ve had [Kayleen Eng] sending stuff into me starting in March …  everything [the Provost’s office] could, ahead of time,” said Hunt. “That way when we have everything come in two weeks before commencement … it gives us a little bit of time to be able to get that done.”

Hunt also said that she maintains an extensive spreadsheet of what needs to be delivered at the Reser stadium for the day of commencement and what goes to the Provost’s office.

According to Hunt, everything is on track as of now. She does anticipate requests for “alpha splits” – signs that are used at commencement to split up graduates by their last names –  in the first week of June, which is one of the primary reasons that PMS has planned things ahead of time. 

During the pandemic, PMS also worked with several departments and the Office of the Provost  to produce, assemble and mail thousands of gift boxes to graduates whose commencement was altered by COVID-19.

PMS, however, does not print the diplomas and an outside vendor, Michael Sutter Company, has been contracted by the Office of Registrar to print them for the graduating class.



Commencement is not just something that affects OSU alone, rather it has an impact on the businesses in and around Corvallis.

According to Simon Date, president of the Corvallis Chamber of Commerce, most businesses are ready for the commencement weekend. Businesses such as restaurants are inundated with reservation requests.

“Commencement is bittersweet for the business community. It’s a fantastic weekend, and so great to see so many students graduating and moving into the start of the rest of their lives,” said Date. “On the flip side, losing …students from the community is revenue lost for a lot of the industries we support.”

Date acknowledged that this decrease in number of students might not be a direct correlation to slowing down of businesses, there is definitely a down turn each summer for local businesses who rely on students as customers.

OSU did not comment on the breakdown of the budget for the commencement ceremony.

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