Commencement Instructions

  • Winter Commencement
    The 2019 Winter Commencement is scheduled Friday, December 13, 2019 in the Ella Fitzgerald Performing Arts Center. Candidates should report by 8:00 a.m. to the Ballroom in the Student Services Center for final commencement instructions. The commencement will begin promptly at 10:00 a.m.; doors will close at 9:45 a.m. Guest are encouraged to arrive early.

    For Bay Bridge traffic information please visit: 


    Rehearsal will take place the day before the event: December 12, 2019.  All graduates are asked to bring their Regalia as a class photo will be taken at this time.

    Candidate Arrival Time

    Commencement day traffic and parking will be a challenge. Candidates are to report to the Ballroom in the Student Services Center no later than 8:00 a.m. and assemble for robing, assembly and final instructions. Please leave all personal belongings (purses, jackets, etc.) with a family member prior to arrival at the Student Services Center. The University is not responsible for any personal items.

    The Commencement Ceremony

    The ceremony will last approximately 2 hours. The ceremony will start with a processional that will enter the arena. The program begins with the invocation and is followed by the presentation and conferral of degrees, benediction and recessional. Men should remove their caps for the singing of the "National Anthem," invocation, benediction, and the Alma Mater. Candidates will be given a 3x5 card on which their names will be printed. The Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs will request candidates to stand for the conferring of degrees by Schools. As directed by the Marshal, candidates will give their name card to the announcer who will read their name to the audience at the appropriate time. Once the candidate’s name has been read, they will be directed to proceed across the stage to the President to receive their diploma and should return and be seated immediately. When directed by the President, candidates receiving their undergraduate degrees should move their mortar board tassel from the right to the left to complete the graduation confirmation. Candidates receiving their graduate degrees should wear their tassels on the left side of their mortar board for the entire ceremony. Candidates receiving doctoral degrees should carry the hood over their left arm to be hooded by the deans of their respective schools on the dais. They will then be directed to proceed across the stage to the President to receive their diploma and return to their seat.

    The Procession

    The procession will begin at 9:55 a.m. The Commencement ceremony begins promptly at 10:00 a.m. with the procession led by the Grand Marshal, the President, members of the administration, honorary degree recipients and the faculty. Candidates will follow in the order of academic schools (i.e., School of Graduate Studies, School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences, School of Education, Social Sciences and The Arts, School of Business and Technology, and School of Pharmacy and Health Professions) as directed by the Marshal.

    The Recessional

    All graduates will recess from the Performing Arts Center under the direction of the Grand Marshal and proceed out the building. Graduates should arrange to meet relatives and friends in the Student Services Center after the Commencement ceremony.

    Commencement Decorum

    While a spirit of joy and enthusiasm is encouraged, Commencement is a formal academic event that recognizes the achievements of all our graduates, honorees and our guest speakers. Students and guest are expected to maintain a measure of decorum consistent with the regal nature of Commencement. Graduates are expected to return to their seats after receiving their diploma and to remain seated for the rest of the Commencement exercise. Family and guests are asked to remain seated for the entire exercise and refrain from leaving their seats in order to take pictures or to talk to graduates. Students and guests who elect to participate are expected to respect the rights of others and to observe some simple guidelines as listed below:

    • Guests are requested to cooperate with any requests made by Commencement Marshals and UMES Event Staff;
    • Cell phones and other electronic devices must be turned off for the duration of the exercise;
    • Noise-making devices, banners and posters are prohibited as are all objects that would detract from the formality of the event. Participants and guest are asked not to bring these items into the venue;
    • Students and guests should remain in their seats until the faculty have proceeded in and out of the arena;
    • The aisles must remain clear throughout the Commencement ceremony;
    • Applause should be held until all students have received their degrees. Names will be read quickly, and it is important that every name is heard;
    • No alcohol or illegal drugs will be permitted in or around the Performing Arts Center. Graduates who appear to be under the influence of either will be removed from the lineup and will not participate in the ceremony. Improper conduct may result in disciplinary actions; 
    • All degree recipients are requested to refrain from inappropriately celebrating (i.e., gyrating and dancing on stage, stepping, calling out names of others, loud, offensive noises and gestures) during the exercise;
    • Candidates should NOT have personal belongings in their possession during the commencement exercise, these items should be given to family or friends. UMES will not be responsible for these items.

    Graduation Dress
    The academic robe is black with a V neckline and will show part of your clothing underneath. Candidates who are not dressed appropriately will not be allowed to participate in the commencement ceremony. Please review and adhere to the following guidelines:

    Men should wear dark trousers and white shirt (suit jacket is not required); formal dress includes a bow tie, or a standard dress tie. Women should wear a dark dress, or dress suit, or dark skirt or trousers and blouse. Your academic regalia would then be worn on top of your dress clothes. Make sure you choose appropriate dress shoes and dress socks for graduation, as you will be required to stand for long periods of time, walk long distances, and use stairs and ramps.

    • Shorts are not permitted.
    • Boots and sneakers are not permitted.
    • No visible jewelry over the gown.
    • No flowers, pins, buttons, badges, or decorating the cap or gown.

    The mortarboard (academic hat) is to be worn with the front point over the forehead below the front hairline so that the flat board is parallel to the floor. The mortarboard is not worn on the back of the head with the board pointing upward.

    Candidates for the Bachelor's degree should enter the arena with the tassel on the right, hanging near the right eye. President Heidi Anderson will lead the undergraduate candidates in the Changing of the Tassel ceremony. Undergraduate candidates for the Bachelor's degree will move their tassel from right to left when instructed by Dr. Anderson.

    Candidates for the Master's degree, will be hooded in the assembly area, and will enter the arena with the tassel at the left front of the mortarboard, hanging near the left eye. Graduate students do not participate in the Changing of the Tassel ceremony.

    Candidates for the Doctoral degree will enter the arena carrying the hood over their left arm, to be hooded on the dais.

    Mortar Board Policy

    Students are precluded from participating in the ceremony without a cap (or gown). It is appropriate to adorn the mortar board with:

    • Your graduation year.
    • An expression of “thanks” to family, a teacher, a friend
    • A symbol of the branch of the military you belong to or may be joining.
    • Acknowledgment of an institution where you plan to continue your studies.
    • Your home country’s flag.
    • A logo or shield of your Greek social or honorary affiliation
    • A symbol or message highlighting your major or student organization affiliation.

    The following expressions are off limits and will result in confiscation of the cap and forfeiture of participation in the ceremony that your family and friends have traveled to campus to witness:

    • Advertisements, symbols, abbreviations, initials, words, slogans or pictures that refer to drugs or controlled substances, tobacco, alcohol or weapons or are of a sexual nature.
    • Symbols that denote an affiliation with gangs or advocate drug use, violence, illegal activity, or disruptive behavior detrimental to the safety and welfare of others.
    • Messages that are obscene, profane, vulgar or lewd, or threaten the safety and welfare of any person.
    • Numbers other than the graduation year.

    Only the flat, top area of the cap may be decorated. Nothing should hang down from any of the sides. Decorations must be flat on the surface of the cap. Three-dimensional creations and lighting are prohibited.

    Graduation caps will be reviewed and approved before the ceremony. Reach out to faculty and commencement day ushers with questions about your cap.

    To review the entire policy please visit this website MORTAR BOARD POLICY.

    Distribution of Diplomas

    Diplomas will be mailed to each graduate approximately six to eight weeks following the Commencement ceremony. Diplomas will be mailed to the address listed on file with the Office of the Registrar. All graduating students are asked to check with the Office of the Registrar to make sure the correct and current address is on file.