Commencement weekend: It takes an army.

May 19, 2016
Commencement Behind the Scenes Newman University

Commencement Weekend. It’s a big deal. When the students and parents arrive, they see a smooth operation, and what goes on behind the scenes is the furthest thing from their minds. They are taking it all in. Memorizing the scene. Making memories and capturing moments. Smiles, hugs, tears. The day their child or loved one has been working so hard for has finally arrived.

It certainly takes an army to pull off a collegiate commencement weekend and have it run smoothly. So smoothly, in fact, that everyone attending can concentrate on making those special memories and just having fun. The folks working hard behind the scenes do so to ensure a great experience for those in attendance who have come together for such an important time.

Thanks to a committee of Newman University staff, that was just the experience the attendees had. Out of more than 500 graduates, a little more than 300 actually attended the ceremonies and walked across the stage on their big day.

Dean of Students Levi Esses
Dean of Students Levi Esses

It all begins in August, seven months before Commencement. According to Dean of Students Levi Esses, the planning starts that early so there is ample time for getting all the details right. The committee just recently met to debrief on the graduation ceremonies that took place on May 14. “I’m always impressed by the discipline and respect all the students show during every part of the process,” said Esses. “This year’s ceremonies went very smoothly and if something didn’t go quite the way we planned behind the scenes, nobody could tell.”

For this year’s event, some major decisions had to be made by the committee. “We separated the undergraduate and graduate ceremonies so that each could have their own special celebration,” Esses noted, “and moving back to Central Community Church instead of staying at Century II gave the event a more controlled and less chaotic feel.” The break between the two ceremonies gave a generous amount of time for resetting things and making sure the sanctuary was ready for the next event.

Sound and media are run by University Relations, live-streaming is prepared, and many hours are put in formatting video and creating content and design. Capturing memories during the ceremonies is a big part of the event. “We can create an archive that Newman alumni can return to and look back on good times” said Web Technology Specialist Dan Murphy.

Of course there are speeches to prepare, music to be rehearsed, and students to prep before the processional, among many other behind-the-scenes activities. In the end, and hopefully with minimal mishap, graduates and their supporters can go home feeling like they were part of something special.

Esses was chair for the 2016 Commencement Committee, whose members were:

  • Director of Student Activities Lauren Fontarum; Registrar Shirley Rueb; Assistant Registrar Christine Werth; Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Rosemary Niedens; Dean of Graduate Studies and Continuing Adult Education Fr. Joe Gile; Administrative Assistant, Campus Ministry Monica Borger; Director of Alumni Relations Sarah Cundiff; Executive Assistant to the President Tracy McGarey; Bookstore Manager Larry Williams; Director of University Relations Clark Schafer; and Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael Austin.