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Traditions help UTSA graduates stand out at Commencement

Traditions help UTSA graduates stand out at Commencement


NOVEMBER 30, 2021 — Thousands of graduating Roadrunners celebrate earning their degrees each May and December by participating in a number of special traditions tied to the momentous occasion.

UTSA's Commencement ceremonies will return to the Alamodome on Saturday, December 11. Graduates of the Carlos Alvarez College of Business, University College, College of Sciences, and College of Engineering and Integrated Design will walk the stage during the 10 a.m. ceremony. Graduates of the College for Health, Community and Policy, College of Education and Human Development, and College of Liberal and Fine Arts will earn their degrees at the 3 p.m. ceremony.

Scheduled for Friday, December 10, the Commencement Drive, a tradition that began in May 2020, will also provide graduates with a memorable 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 #UTSAGrad21.

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 and December 2020 Commencement ceremonies were the first to be held in a virtual setting due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the May 2021 Commencement was held at various locations across the Main Campus.

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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 news@utsa.edu. Keep up-to-date on UTSA news by visiting UTSA Today. Connect with UTSA online at Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram.




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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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