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Traditions help UTSA graduates stand out at Commencement

Traditions help UTSA graduates stand out at Commencement


DECEMBER 3, 2020 — Each May and December, thousands of graduating Roadrunners, along with their families and friends, celebrate earning their degrees by participating in a number of special traditions tied to the momentous occasion.

To ensure the health and safety of students and their loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic, UTSA will conduct a virtual Commencement celebration on Saturday, December 12. Graduating students will have the opportunity to demonstrate their decorative attire by sharing their photos and messages.

The Commencement Drive, which began in May 2020, will provide graduates with a memorable and safe experience. In the spirit of San Antonio's victory celebrations, graduates embark on a nostalgic victory lap, including honking horns, around campus. For graduates outside San Antonio, they can participate by sharing a video of their car honk on social media using #UTSAGrad20. 

There are many traditions involving the accessories students would typically wear for Commencement. 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 various activities at UTSA. For example, student-athletes and Honors College students receive special stoles to wear. Students can also purchase a Stole of Gratitude, which they can present after the virtual celebration 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. 

There are also traditions related to the caps students wear for graduation. For undergraduates, the tassel is worn on the right side of the cap until they're instructed to move the tassels to the left side. Master's and doctoral students always keep their tassels to the left.

Over the years guests have taken note of the many brightly decorated mortarboards that students wear. UTSA students have embraced the tradition of sprucing up their mortarboards with individualized art and special messages to help them stand out in the crowd.

Another group of students with attention-grabbing headwear are those getting degrees in construction science and management; they wear special orange hard hats. Be on the lookout for those wearing the orange feet of Rowdy as well. Students who served as mascots during their time at UTSA get to wear the feet during graduation celebrations.

Another unique tradition involves the UTSA class rings that many graduates wear, which spend a night at the Alamo to connect them to the history of San Antonio.

Since UTSA's first graduation celebration in May 1976, mariachis have performed to help give a celebratory feel. The ceremonies were traditionally held at the Convocation Center until 2013 when Commencement was moved to the Alamodome. The May 2020 and December 2020 Commencement celebrations are the first to be held in a virtual setting.

— Jose Sandoval

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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.

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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.