Don we now our grad apparel

On Aug. 15, 2009, an estimated 550 students along with friends and family will pour into the South Park Blocks to honor and commemorate those who have successfully completed their degrees.

On Aug. 15, 2009, an estimated 550 students along with friends and family will pour into the South Park Blocks to honor and commemorate those who have successfully completed their degrees.

“All of the students attending are being honored for completing their respective degrees,” says J. R. Tarabocchia, of the Office of the Dean of Students and commencement coordinator. “Just over 5,000 students are graduating from PSU.”
What is commencement?
Commencement is different from the act of graduating. Graduation is the fulfillment of degree requirements, whereas commencement is a symbolic ceremony and celebration of the end of a student’s academic career.

“It is a milestone for all students who have completed their degree, because graduating from an institution of higher ed. is special and is an achievement that only a small fraction of the population have obtained,” Tarabocchia said.

Students do not actually receive their diplomas at commencement. Generally, the diplomas are available for pick up two to three months after the ceremony.

“Commencement, in a way, is also a farewell or send-off party for graduating students. It is the last time that students will sit with their fellow academic peers,” Tarabocchia said. “Commencement is also a rite of passage.”
Summer commencement 2009
This year’s summer commencement will take place on campus in the South Park Blocks between Smith Memorial Student Union and the Simon Benson House.

Commencement is optional and many of the graduating students will not be attending the ceremony.

“Summer commencement is less formal,” Tarabocchia said. “The ceremony is short and sweet.”

Except for doctorate students, not all students will be tossing up their caps after the ceremony. Participants are not required to don the traditional regalia of cap and gown, and are welcomed to come as they please.

The ceremony will last one and a half hours and is open to any family or friends who would like to attend.

Tickets are not necessary, but chairs are limited and the committee can only guarantee seats for participating students. Family and friends must be prepared to stand during the ceremony or plan on accommodating their own seating needs.
The planning
“It’s a lot like planning a wedding minus the family dynamics,” Tarabocchia said.

Tarabocchia is in charge of not only getting students to the ceremony, but also finding volunteers, hiring vendors and every other part one can imagine that goes into planning a large event.

Hiring an orchestra, professional sound, a company that provides chairs, a company that provides barricades and a company that prints programs are just a few of tasks Tarabocchia faces.

“It’s definitely a lot to keep track of, but I have the help and support of my colleagues, such as Joan Jagodnik, Mary Ann Barham, Becki Ingersoll and Dee Thompson—all of whom do a lot of ‘heavy lifting,'” Tarabocchia said.

There will be 35 volunteers at summer commencement compared to the 80 that were at the spring ceremonies.

“[Their] main jobs are assembling the students, leading the student lines to be seated in an orderly fashion, setting the stage, handing out programs and assisting guests,” explains Tarabocchia.
Road blocks

Though Tarabocchia is a skilled planner, he cannot change acts of nature or, in this case, acts of city nature.

“There are several construction projects that are touching the Park Blocks this summer, so we, for example, will have one less entry point to the venue,” Tarabocchia said. “Also, the farmers’ market will be taking place at the same time.”

Despite their presence, says Tarabocchia, “the facilities and the farmers’ market have really been great about working with me around this event.”

The construction and the farmers’ market are just minor details, and summer commencement will go on as planned. In fact, students and their families can grab a bite at the market after the ceremony has ended.

Spring commencement 2009 and plans for next year
The only crisis at this past spring commencement: a lost box of pencils. Tarabocchia was appointed as the commencement coordinator in February of 2009, and took on the grueling process of commencement planning like a pro.

“Behind the scenes went extremely smoothly—the only thing that went wrong is that we lost a box of pencils,” Tarabocchia said.

PSU’s spring commencement 2009 was the first commencement ceremony Tarabocchia has ever planned.

“The job can be stressful at times, but I’m pretty laid back, so it really takes a true crisis for me to get riled up,” Tarabocchia said.

A few changes will be made at next year’s commencement based on recommendations from the president, members of Tarabocchia’s advisory board and his own personal observations.

Next year, coordinators “are looking into having a company sell caps and gowns made out of 100 percent recycled materials,” Tarabocchia said.