Class of ’17 to graduate in Dix Stadium

Ian Flickinger

Graduation is an unforgettable moment for college students: four (or more, for all the super-seniors) years of 7 a.m. classes, all-night cramming for exams and eating ramen for breakfast, lunch and dinner culminate in a celebration of their achievement. Hearing their name, grabbing their diploma, tossing the mortarboard in the air and then it’s officially over.

President Beverly Warren confirmed major news regarding the 2017 graduation ceremony, including that it will have a new home and a few more names called than in years past. 

“We’re going to have the first full singular graduation in May of ’17… We’ll have the graduation in Dix Stadium, and we really are looking for a special commencement speaker,” Warren said. “So, we’ll have to get out the word to find out what ideas might you (students) have.”

While full campus ceremonies are not unusual, in fact many — if not most — large universities (including Ohio State, for instance) hold one sizable convocation, Kent State has always held separate graduation services for each campus.

Now, students who graduate during the 2016-17 school year will celebrate not just with their campus brethren, but graduating members from every regional campus as well.

Dr. James Ritter, director of Enrollment Management & Student Services at the Trumbull campus, said today’s students do a lot of “swirling” — attending classes at numerous campuses to fit their individual scheduling needs — which should make the transition easier for most students. 

“There’s so much swirling… that it’s rare that a student takes all their courses at one campus,” Ritter said. “Again, that’s the beauty of Kent State and having eight different campuses.”

Ritter said this full campus approach might actually make things simpler for the university, because it’s hard to determine which individual campus is the student’s “home,” or wherever the student took the majority of their classes that semester. 

As for concerns about additional traveling, Ritter said he doesn’t expect it to be a major issue, at least not for the Trumbull campus. 

“I don’t know about the other campuses, but from here it’s 40 minutes on a bad day,” Ritter said. “We refer to it as ‘just down the road.’ You go straight down Route 5 and (you) run right into it. It’s not a big deal for our campus.”

Mary Southards, assistant dean for Enrollment Management at the Stark Campus, said that while nothing is finalized yet, her understanding is that all students who are graduating in the 2016-17 academic school year will be invited — those who have already graduated in the fall of 2016, spring 2017 and potentially the students who graduated over the summer of 2016 too.

“I haven’t seen any official direction yet, but what I’ve read and what I’ve heard is that every degree granting unit… can have a smaller ceremony for their students in the fall and in the spring so that it’s…more intimate…and then the big ceremony at the stadium in May,” Southards said.

Southards said the students receiving baccalaureate degrees at Stark are already invited to attend a ceremony at the Kent campus and that Stark plans to continue to have a ceremony in December and May for its students. The new version, however, includes students who earned two-year associate degrees.

“That’s a different philosophy and a different approach (the full university ceremony) and for some of the regional campuses where they have a lot of students earning two-year degrees, it’s very different because two-year degree graduates have never been invited to participate in a ceremony on the Kent campus,” Southards said. 

She said while the full campus ceremony may look like an overhaul, students have the same opportunities as students in previous graduating classes.

“They’ll still have the opportunity to attend a ceremony at their regional campus, but they’ll also have an opportunity if they want to pursue it, to go to the Kent campus for the big ceremony at the stadium,” Southards said. “If you have a big family, that might be your best option.”

The ceremony at Dix Stadium also addresses a major concern many students have: tickets. With the additional seating, students won’t have to choose which family members are invited and which ones to avoid at the next family gathering. 

“If you’ve got a big extended family and they all want to see you graduate, it’s really hard to decide who gets a ticket and who doesn’t,” Southards said. “(By) having it at the stadium, a lot of those issues will be resolved. Of course, the flip side is it’s going to be outside.”

Both Ritter and Southards stress that nothing is set in stone as of now and that a more detailed plan will be developed to answer any questions or concerns.

However, Southards said she isn’t sure what the university’s back-up plan might be if Ohio’s temperamental weather decides to strike.

“My guess is that there isn’t a backup plan: you wear your raincoat (and) take an umbrella. If it’s going to be outside, it’s going to be outside.” she said. “There isn’t a venue large enough on the Kent campus to put 20,000 people indoors. It’s kind of taking a chance in Ohio in the middle of May to hold an outdoor ceremony, but hopefully it’ll be a beautiful spring day and a great experience for everyone.”

Ian Flickinger is the Administration reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]