UK to celebrate first fall commencement ceremony

By Joy Priest

December graduates no longer have to wait until spring to walk in their caps and gowns.

UK will be holding the first fall commencement ceremony next Friday. The graduate and professional student ceremony will begin at 3 p.m. in the Singetary Center concert hall, and the undergraduate ceremony will begin at 6 p.m. in Memorial Coliseum.

“Students and families have been requesting the opportunity to have a fall or December commencement,” said Pat Whitlow, assistant provost for Academic Administration. “So, it just seemed like it was time to respond to that. More than 500 undergraduates have registered to participate, so we’re really looking forward to it.”

One of those registered students is Travis Darden, an agricultural economics senior.

“I am just ecstatic about fall commencement,” Darden said. “When I was made aware of the opportunity to graduate early and participate in a ceremony, it gave me extra motivation to hurry up and finish. Now I don’t feel pressured to spend an extra semester enrolled when I could be devoting that time towards starting my career, which is what I will be focused on in the spring.”

A large number of students who graduate in December do not have the opportunity to return for May commencement. Obstacles like distance and internships prevent them from traveling back to Lexington.

“There are an increasing number of students that finish in the fall semester,” said Beth Barnes, director of the School of Journalism and Telecommunications and the master of ceremonies for the undergraduate ceremony. “They are invited back for the May ceremony, however some of them already have jobs by then.”

Dr. James Holsinger, the master of ceremonies for the graduate and professional fall commencement, was a fall graduate him who could not come back for a spring ceremony. This December, as he hosts UK’s first official fall commencement he will be able to see one of his own doctoral students’ academic careers celebrated. She would probably not have been able to return to be recognized in May said Holsinger.

“I am very pleased to have been asked to be the university orator for the first UK commencement in December,” Holsinger said. “I was a proponent for having a fall commencement. I think it will benefit students by bringing closure to their academic career at the University of Kentucky in a way that would probably not occur otherwise.”

Students who are scheduled to graduate in August 2010 are also able to participate in this December commencement.

Unlike May graduation, only one undergraduate and one graduate ceremony will occur rather than a celebration for each individual college. However, individual colleges will have their own open houses.

“We our having our own little ceremony for the College of Journalism and Telecommunications that same day from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., but I know all of the colleges are having their individual celebrations,” Barnes said.

Barnes suggested that despite its timing on the last day of finals, the fall commencement should still be a viable option for students.

“Finals for undergrads end at 5 p.m. on that day, so everything should work out,” Barnes said. “I just think a fall ceremony is long overdue. It is so important and meaningful to parents. I am interested to see how it all comes off, and it is something to look forward to on a cold December evening.”