Thursday, March 17, 2022

Everything you need to know about UTSA’s academic regalia

(Nov. 29, 2018) -- At UTSA Commencement, everyone is wearing a cap and gown, but some look very different than the others. We decided to tap into the history behind the academic regalia to find out what the different colors and styles represent.

The tradition of the academic dress dates back nearly eight centuries. In medieval Europe, all townsmen wore long, flowing robes or gowns. The materials and colors varied greatly, according to the wealth and rank of the individual and were governed by royal decree. Gradually, distinctive gowns were developed for the various professions, trades and guilds. Today, this tradition remains for gowns of religious orders and judiciary, and in academic regalia.

>> Discover more information about UTSA Commencement including traditions you'll only see at UTSA.

Through the years, great diversity in color and style of cap, gown and hood have evolved. In 1895, a commission was established to come up with a uniform code for academic costume. Today, the gowns, hoods and mortarboards worn by the graduates of most institutions, including UTSA, follow this code.

Bobby De Leon is a first-generation student earning his bachelor's degree in music education.


At UTSA, the gowns and mortarboards are navy blue. The style of the gowns vary depending on the degree the student receives. The sleeves of the gowns worn by the master’s degree recipients are square at the end. The doctoral degree recipients’ gowns have flowing sleeves with three bars of velvet and a facing of velvet down the front with the UTSA seal. The velvet trim is five inches wide for the doctoral degree. The color of the velvet border indicates the degree and align with the tassel colors listed below.

Alesha Sha came from China to earn her master's of business administration at UTSA. 

The biggest difference in regalia can be found in the hood, which identifies the graduate degree and institution in which it was awarded. For master’s graduates, the hood is short. For those receiving a doctoral degree, the hood is longer and lined with silk in the official colors of the student’s institution. UTSA’s hoods are lined in orange with one white chevron.

Ana Rodriguez '09, '14 earned her bachelor's and master's from UTSA. Now, this UTSA staff member is receiving her Ph.D. in educational leadership.

The academic caps have their own special meanings. Developed in the 15th century, some caps were stiff, some soft, some square and some round with a tuft in the center. The tassel used today is an elaboration of the tuft. While some institutions still use the round caps, most institutions, including UTSA, have adopted the mortarboard style that comes from Oxford University. Students earning terminal degrees wear a tam.

The tassel color for graduate degrees indicates the discipline in which the degree has been earned, except that a gold bullion tassel is worn by recipients of doctoral degrees. For a bachelor’s degree, the tassel's colors represent the university in a tri-color of orange, blue and white. The gold cord, worn by some undergraduate students, indicates graduation with honors: summa cum laude, magna cum laude or cum laude.

UTSA leadership and faculty wear the robe specific to the university where they earned their highest degree. President Taylor Eighmy’s regalia is indicative of the University of New Hampshire where he earned his Ph.D. in environmental engineering. Eighmy is in the Roadrunner spirit with his orange hood, which actually signifies his engineering degree. He also wears the UTSA Presidential Medallion, which symbolizes the authority and responsibility vested in the President. The brass medallion has the University seal on one side and the words “Presented by the UTSA Development Board in honor of the University’s 25th anniversary—1994” on the other side.

UTSA President Taylor Eighmy's hood represents his Ph.D. in environmental engineering, but it's also UTSA colors. He also wears the UTSA Presidential Medallion.

UTSA Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Kimberly Andrews Espy purchased her regalia when she was a faculty member at Southern Illinois University and needed it to participate in the hooding of her first doctoral student. The hood is red and white, representing her doctoral alma mater, University of Houston, and the piping on the sleeve chevrons is gold, representing her science degree. Her favorite features of the gown are the buttons that anchor the hood in place: one hidden inside the zipper and another on the back. Another distinguishing feature of her regalia is what it lacks — like a number of faculty, Espy eschews tradition by wearing neither a tam nor mortarboard at ceremonies.

UTSA Provost Kimberly Andrews Espy wears regalia representing her Ph.D. in clinical neuropsychology from the University of Houston.


Tassel and Hood Colors for Graduate Degrees

Blue Violet
Urban and Regional Planning

Interior Design

American Studies, Anthropology,
Bicultural and Bilingual Studies,
Geography, Mexican American Studies or Social Work



Dark Blue
Justice Policy, Philosophy
Political Science

Data Analytics

Criminal Justice

Golden Yellow

Light Blue



Peacock Blue
Public Administration

Public Health

Classical Studies, History, Humanities,
Multidisciplinary Studies,
Sociology, Languages or
Women's Studies


Courtney Clevenger

Discover more information about UTSA Commencement.

Engage in learning and discovery with UTSA academics.

Connect with UTSA online at Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and LinkedIn.

UTSA Today is produced by University Communications and Marketing, the official news source of The University of Texas at San Antonio. Send your feedback to Keep up-to-date on UTSA news by visiting UTSA Today. Connect with UTSA online at Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram.




University of Texas at San Antonio receives ‘transformational’ $40M gift

UTSA’s Mission

The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.

UTSA’s Vision

To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.

UTSA’s Core Values

We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.

UTSA’S Destinations

UTSA is a proud Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) as designated by the U.S. Department of Education.

Our Commitment to Inclusivity

The University of Texas at San Antonio, a Hispanic Serving Institution situated in a global city that has been a crossroads of peoples and cultures for centuries, values diversity and inclusion in all aspects of university life. As an institution expressly founded to advance the education of Mexican Americans and other underserved communities, our university is committed to ending generations of discrimination and inequity. UTSA, a premier public research university, fosters academic excellence through a community of dialogue, discovery and innovation that embraces the uniqueness of each voice.