Commencement Traditions

Time-Honored Traditions of UTSA Commencement

Each May and December, thousands of Roadrunners, along with their families and friends, gather in downtown San Antonio at the Alamodome for UTSA Commencement ceremonies. As they celebrate earning their degrees, these graduates are participating in a number of special traditions tied to the momentous occasion.

Group of graduates wearing a variety of different stoles and cords

Stoles and Cords: Symbolic Adornments of Achievement

There are many traditions involving the accessories students wear as they cross the stage. The stoles and cords draped over students' shoulders have special meanings. Stoles are the colored sashes that students wear draped over their shoulders. Stoles represent involvement in different activities at UTSA. For example, student-athletes are given stoles to wear. Honors College students receive special stoles at the Stole and Laurel Ceremony, which takes place before Commencement. Many first-generation college graduates will wear first-gen stoles. Students can also purchase a Stole of Gratitude, which they can present after the ceremony as a show of gratitude to someone whose support helped the student reach this milestone.

Commencement cords, ropes draped over the gowns, also have special meanings. Gold honors cords are given out to Cum Laude, Magna Cum Laude, and Summa Cum Laude students. Students who have served on active duty in the military are eligible to wear red, white and blue Veterans Honors Cords.

Close up of graduate's decorated mortarboard during commencement ceremony

Turning Heads: Tassels, Mortarboards and Hard Hats

There are also traditions related to the caps students wear to Commencement. For undergraduates, the tassel is worn on the right side of the cap until the end of the ceremony, when students are instructed to move the tassels to the left side. Master’s and Doctoral graduates keep their tassels to the left for the whole ceremony. Guests attending the ceremony will notice that many of the mortarboards students wear are brightly decorated. UTSA students have embraced the tradition of decorating their mortarboards with art and special messages to help them stand out in the crowd. Another group of students with attention-grabbing headwear at the commencement ceremony are those getting degrees in Construction Science and Management; they wear special orange hard hats.

UTSA graduate walking during commencement while wearing roadrunner costume legs

Spot the Roadrunners

While most students will wear the recommended dark shoes with their robes, be on the lookout for the distinctive orange feet of Rowdy the Roadrunner. A privilege reserved for former mascots, this quirky tradition adds a playful touch to the ceremony.

Graduate in full regalia showing off her UTSA ring

Ring of Legacy

Another unique tradition involves the UTSA class rings that many graduates wear. All UTSA rings spend a night in the Alamo—the only college rings in San Antonio to do so. Since 2012, over 10,000 UTSA rings have stayed overnight at the historic structure.

The ring symbolizes not only academic accomplishments but also the lasting bond between our students and UTSA, fostering a sense of pride and belonging within the Roadrunner community.

Close up of mariachi band performing during commencement

Mariachi Magic: A Serenade Since 1976

Since UTSA’s first commencement ceremony in May of 1976, mariachis have performed to help give the ceremony a celebratory feel. Few cultural cornerstones are as synonymous with San Antonio as the ceremony-closing mariachi serenade. The ceremonies have been held at the Alamodome since 2013, and since then pyrotechnics and streamers have also been part of the showstopping finale.