Western Carolina University will hold two spring commencement ceremonies to accommodate the largest graduating class in university history, with activities set for Friday, May 8, and Saturday, May 9, at the Ramsey Regional Activity Center.
A record-breaking number of WCU students, approximately 1,110, is currently completing academic requirements to receive their degrees. About 270 graduate students are eligible to take part in a commencement that will be held at 7 p.m. on May 8, while some 840 undergraduates are invited to participate in a 2 p.m. ceremony on May 9.
Another group of students who expect to complete their degree requirements this summer also will be participating in the May 8 commencement along with the graduate students. University officials decided in February to cancel WCU’s August commencement ceremony as a cost-cutting measure, in preparation for projected cuts in state funding. Graduate and undergraduate students who would have participated in the August event are being given the option of taking part in the May 8 ceremony or WCU’s regular December commencement, said Fred Hinson, senior associate vice chancellor for academic affairs and chair of the university’s commencement committee.
Before moving to suspend the August ceremony, the smallest of WCU’s three regular commencements, university officials already had planned to hold two ceremonies in May to accommodate the record number of spring graduates. That move was necessary because the size of the class would have exceeded capacity at the 8,000-seat Ramsey Center, in terms of the number of graduating students who would be participating, and the crowd expected to attend, Hinson said.
WCU’s graduating students are not restricted in the numbers of their family members and friends who can attend commencement. The ceremonies are open to everyone. WCU Chancellor John W. Bardo will preside over both May commencements and deliver the charge to the degree candidates. A member of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors will attend the May 9 ceremony to present the UNC system’s highest teaching honor, the Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching, to a WCU faculty member. Students participating in the May 8 ceremony are required to attend a rehearsal that begins at 4 p.m. that same day. The mandatory rehearsal for students taking part in the May 9 commencement begins at 9:30 a.m. that day.
Receptions for the degree candidates and their families and friends will be held in the Ramsey Center at the conclusion of each commencement. The receptions will be held in a designated area for each of WCU’s academic colleges. Traffic is always heavy for commencement ceremonies on WCU’s campus, and university officials urge those attending to plan to arrive at the Ramsey Center one hour before the events begin For more information about WCU’s May commencements, contact the university’s registrar’s office at (828) 227-7216.