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Friday, April 18, 2014 | Last updated: 3:41am

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Rising attendance brings changes to UA's spring commencement ceremony



This year’s commencement ceremony has been described as “exciting,” “unforgettable” and “pretty amazing” — and it hasn’t even happened yet.

The ceremony, which is scheduled for Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Arizona Stadium, will include new additions to make graduation “an experience they [attendees] are not going to forget,” said Kasey Urquidez, the associate vice president of Student Affairs, dean of undergraduate admissions and director of commencement.

One important change is that the ceremony will be held in the Arizona Stadium for the first time since 1972, according to Mary Venezia, assistant director for strategic initiatives and enrollment management. Unlike in prior years, the ceremony will also be held at night.

With UA student enrollment exceeding 40,000 for the first time this year and retention and graduation rates also increasing, Urquidez said the move from McKale Center to Arizona Stadium will allow more family and friends of graduating students to attend the ceremony.

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Ryan Revock/Arizona Daily Wildcat Students and families celebrate winter commencement in the McKale center in December 2012. The spring commencement ceremony will be held in the Arizona Stadium this year for the first time in 40 years.

Nearly 6,000 undergraduate students and just over 900 master’s students will receive their degrees. Nearly 3,000 students are expected to participate in the ceremony, according to Urquidez.

“It should be fun,” said Tori Racanelli, a molecular and cellular biology senior. “I think it’s going to be interesting in the stadium. I think people are going to be a little warm, but I’m excited to see what happens.”

Additions were made to the ceremony to keep the audience’s energy up, Urquidez said. Food trucks will be stationed in the student staging area, a photo presentation of graduating students will play on the stadium’s big screen and there will also be a secret grand finale, which Urquidez said she is most excited for.

“We definitely have worked really hard to make it be an experience they are not going to forget,” Urquidez said. “There are going to be fireworks at the end and the grand finale will be pretty amazing. I think students will remember it for a long time.”

The commencement speaker is Robert F. Moran, chairman and CEO of PetSmart, who has made significant contributions to the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. His support has helped to establish two endowed positions in the college: the PetSmart Distinguished Professorship and the PetSmart Endowed Professorship of Practice in Retailing and Consumer Sciences.

In addition to the events planned during the ceremony, the university has cooperated with construction plans to allow the fences in front of Old Main to be taken down for the day to allow photo opportunities. Urquidez said the university knows how iconic Old Main is and wanted to make sure it would be available to graduating students.

With all of the new features, Urquidez said she expects the ceremony to be a great success, cementing Arizona Stadium as the new home for commencement.

“It’s going to be really amazing,” Venezia said. “It’s going to be different than what we’ve done in the past, but I think it’s going to become a new and welcome tradition at the U of A, and people will be really excited about it.”

Commencement will be held at Arizona Stadium for future spring undergraduate and master’s ceremonies as well, Venezia added.

“I think it will be memorable because it seems like they are trying to build a very intimate experience, that we can go out with our friends in a very casual and easy-going setting, with the food trucks and activities,” said Michael Brondello, a management information systems senior. “It will be good, old-fashioned, simple fun that will let us be ourselves … That will be the best way to send off our experience at the U of A.”


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