PLU Campus in the spring looking through flowers at Xavier Hall.

Commencement Location Change

This week, we announced a change that realigns PLU’s Commencement with the tradition the university has had in place for over 100 years: Commencement is returning to the PLU campus.

Some graduates and their loved ones may have questions about this change and what they may do to prepare over the next five months. The intent of this resource page is to post answers to frequently asked questions that come through email to commencement@plu.edu or submitted through the form below.

The Commencement Team will update this page weekly through May or as needed. (Page updated: January 12, 2024, at 8:30 a.m.)

Why the change? Why now?

Why move PLU Commencement from the Tacoma Dome back to campus?

We’ve moved away from that tradition for the past 15 years or so, purely for the sake of logistics. Our campus infrastructure could not accommodate the volume of people participating in Commencement, nor did we have sufficient support persons or event staff to successfully manage the celebration. We’re in a place now where we can accommodate that volume, and we’re pleased to be able to respond to a longstanding wish to have our graduates experience a more intimate and meaningful event on campus.

Why four graduation ceremonies?

In August 2022, PLU announced that a long-planned academic restructure was being implemented that organizes Pacific Lutheran University’s academic programs into four colleges: the College of Health Professions; the College of Liberal Studies; the College of Natural Sciences; and the College of Professional Studies.

This May, we will be shifting from one large event at the Tacoma Dome to four smaller events on campus — one ceremony for each of the four colleges — spread out over two days. For information on the college graduation schedule, please click here.

What academic areas are housed under the four colleges?

College of Health Professions

  • Kinesiology
  • Marriage and Family Therapy
  • Nursing
  • Social Work

College of Liberal Studies

  • Anthropology
  • Chinese Studies
  • Criminal Justice
  • Economics
  • English
  • French & Francophone Studies
  • Gender, Sexuality and Race Studies
  • Global Studies
  • Hispanic & Latino Studies
  • History
  • Holocaust & Genocide Studies
  • Individualized Majors
  • Languages and Literatures
  • Master of Fine Arts
  • Native American & Indigenous Studies
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science
  • Publishing & Printing Arts
  • Religion
  • Sociology
  • STEM Education Minor

College of Natural Sciences

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Dual Degree Engineering
  • Earth Science
  • Environmental Studies
  • Geosciences
  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Psychology

College of Professional Studies

  • Art & Design
  • Business
  • Communication, Media & Design Arts
  • Education
  • Innovation Studies
  • Music
  • Theatre & Dance

Why an on-campus venue?

To create the sort of intimate and meaningful experience graduates are telling us they desire, and in order to accommodate the families, friends, and guests of our graduates, we’re hosting four separate Commencement ceremonies spread over two days in May 2024: one for each of the four colleges that make up PLU. Degrees are sorted into the College of Health Professions, College of Liberal Studies, College of Natural Sciences, and College of Professional Studies.

How will this change the feeling of Commencement?

Since 2020, PLU Commencement has changed every year, including hosting two years of Commencements remotely. There is a profound desire among PLU community members to celebrate our graduates. This is especially true for a class that has accomplished, struggled through, learned, and realized so much. Along with the May ceremonies, the spring semester brings with it a host of activities and events designed to honor our graduates. We hope Commencement Week on campus will be full of joy and memories. We are so proud of you, Lutes!

Will there be changes to the final exam schedule?

The shift in the calendar — which moves Commencement from Saturday of Memorial Day weekend to the Thursday and Friday before — also necessitates a change to the final exam schedule. All finals will be completed by Wednesday of finals week (instead of Thursday). Faculty will receive a separate communication about the updated final exam schedule by mid-January; the Registrar’s website will also include the revised schedule. 

"When will I hear more information about PLU Commencement?"

Graduates and families can find information about which college their degree program is part of on the Commencement website. On that same website, you can also find details about the scheduled day/time for each college’s event

More information about the event will be emailed from Commencement@plu.edu in the spring semester. You can also check back on the Commencement website at any time as updates are available, they’ll be posted here.

Hospitality and logistics

Is there a limit on tickets?

No. These are unticketed events, meaning students are welcome to bring their family and loved ones to their ceremony. 

While graduates will participate or “walk” in the one Commencement ceremony that aligns with their degree program, they are able to attend the other three ceremonies to support their friends and classmates.

PLU faculty and staff are welcome to attend as many ceremonies as they choose.

What does this location change mean for families and friends?

Commencement on campus means families can see the spaces where their students learned. It means that students can take photos at locations that were meaningful to them during their time at PLU. And it means more faculty and staff can celebrate graduates and welcome their families and friends in a setting that has been an integral part of their educational journey.

"I have two degrees. Can I walk with both? Can I walk across the stage twice?"

Unfortunately, you cannot walk with both degrees. You will need to choose which degree you want to walk with at the ceremony. The Commencement Team will contact you directly to determine which degree you want to walk with.

"Does this mean I can't sit with my friends and classmates?"

Students will participate in the ceremony for the college of their degree program. Students graduating with multiple majors will have the opportunity to select the single ceremony they wish to participate in, just as students in past years have selected which degree group they want to sit with in our past larger ceremony. (Graduating students are welcome to attend all other ceremonies as guests!)

Are the four ceremonies taking place at the same time?

No. The four ceremonies — one ceremony for each of the four colleges — will be spread out over two days. For times, please check the College Graduation Schedule.

How does PLU accommodate a disability during the ceremony?

Please contact the Office of Accessibility and Accommodation at 253-535-7073 to make the necessary arrangements.

"I am graduating, what should I do with my personal belongings during the ceremony?"

There is no space available for items to be stored. Please leave all items (keys, purses, cameras, flowers, extra clothing, etc.) you do not want to carry with you during the ceremony with your guests. We do not recommend leaving items of value in your vehicle, however if you have to leave any item in your vehicle, it is best to store it in the trunk out of view.

"What do I wear to the Commencement Ceremony?"

PLU follows the Academic Costume Code as outlined by the American Council on Education (ACE). All Graduation candidates at Commencement are to wear regalia including: black caps with black tassels, black gowns and black hoods lined with gold to represent PLU and trimmed with the color indicative of the degree the student is earning. Honorifics awarded by PLU (Wang Center pins, honors cords, etc.) may be worn. Per ACE’s guidelines, candidates may not decorate their tassels, gowns or hoods; floral accents (corsages, boutonnieres, leis, etc) should be worn after the commencement ceremony.

Can I wear my ROTC dress uniform instead of the cap and gown?

No, all students must wear the academic regalia for the degree they are earning.

When and where do I get my cap and gown?

Each student is responsible for ordering and purchasing the required regalia (cap, gown, hood and tassel). Students are to pick up their regalia from the Grad Fair on May 14 and May 15 from 3:00pm – 5:00pm in the Regency Room, Anderson University Center.

Can I decorate my cap (mortar board)?

Yes, you may, however all decorations must lie flat and should not extend off the top of the mortar board.  Please note that all modifications to the mortar board must not obstruct the view of others.

Does everyone get a hood?

No, only graduate and doctoral students will be hooded. Master’s degree are three and one-half feet, and the Doctoral degree is four feet. Hoods are black and lined with gold to represent PLU and trimmed with the color indicative of the degree the student is earning. Students must purchase a hood with their regalia and bring the hood with them to the ceremony.

Where do I get my honor cord?

Students who earn institutional honors (cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude) receive the tri-color PLU Graduation Honors cord. The University provides the cord, no ordering is required. For cords, pins and other honorifics distributed by individual PLU departments contact the department for details.

How long is a Commencement ceremony?

The length is dependent upon the number of students participating. The estimated time for each ceremony is 1 – 1.5 hours.

When is the rehearsal?

PLU does not host a rehearsal for Commencements.

I am participating in the ceremony, what time do I need to arrive?

All students must arrive one hour before the start of their ceremony.

Am I allowed to leave the ceremony early?

Students may not leave the ceremony until the conclusion of the event.

What is the parking status?

Parking will be free. Please check back for detailed parking information.

Preparing for graduation

"How do I apply to graduate?"

Please visit Applying for Graduation for the proper applications and requirements.

"How do I change / edit my graduation application?"

Please e-mail Graduation to change/edit your application. In your e-mail, make sure to include your name and ID#.

When are the deadlines to apply for graduation?

Degree Date               Application Deadline
December 2023            October 2, 2023
January 2024                December 1, 2023
May 2024                      March 1, 2024
August 2024                 June 1, 2024

Families and friends

"My student needs assistance getting up stairs. How does PLU accommodate a disability during the ceremony?"

Please contact the Office of Accessibility and Accommodation at 253-535-7073 to make the necessary arrangements.

"Am I able to sit next to my student?"

All guests will take their seat in the bleachers; students will be seated on the arena floor.

"How will I know where my student is when they enter and sit?"

A large screen will be showing the students entering the arena and you will be able to see them.

"Where is my student going to be seated?"

Students are placed in alphabetical order by degree.

"I have a family member who is not able to come to Commencement. How can they watch it?"

PLU provides a live stream of Commencement Events. Visit the Livestream page to watch the live stream or to view an event at a later date.

"A guest in our group that cannot walk long distances or needs wheelchair access. What are the accommodations?"

Accessible-seating and other reasonable accommodations are available for individuals with disabilities. There will be a designated parking lot reserved for guests with disabilities. Volunteers are available to direct guests to open wheelchair seating.

"Can we sit with our friends and family who are in the special seating sections?"

No. Due to limited space there, only the person needing to use the section and one other guest may occupy the area.

"I see a person taking pictures during the ceremony. How do I get them?"

Please visit Grad Images for ceremony photography information.

"I want to purchase a diploma frame for my student, where do I get one?"

You may visit the Lute Locker (located within the lower level of the Anderson University Center) during normal business hours, online or at their table during Commencement in the Tacoma Dome.

"Can we bring outside food and beverages?"

Outside food and beverage is strictly prohibited.

"Where can I park my stroller?"

There will be an area that you may place the strollers. Please note that it is not a secured area.

Additional FAQs

What is the difference between graduation and Commencement?

PLU distinguishes between graduation (completing your degree requirements) and Commencement (the ceremony that celebrates your PLU experience). Students graduating in December 2023, J-term 2024, May 2024, or August 2024 are eligible to participate in Commencement this May. Students graduating in December 2024 or J-term 2025 are eligible for Commencement in May 2025.

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