Day-of Instructions for Grads & Guests

Before the Ceremony

  • The doors to Bender Arena will open approximately 45 minutes to one hour before the ceremony. No one will be permitted inside prior to that time.
  • All bags are subject to search. No large bags (backpacks, briefcases, duffel bags, etc.) will be permitted inside Bender Arena. For security purposes, do not leave bags unattended.
  • Large signs, banners, noise makers and other objects that impede visibility or sound will not be permitted.
  • There are no coat check facilities in Bender Arena. Graduates and guests who do not wish to carry coats, purses, etc. should leave these items locked in their vehicles.
  • Ceremonies run approximately two to two and a half hours. Ceremonies will be live streamed, and remote viewing will be available.
  • Use the commencement hashtag on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Your posts will appear on the screens inside Bender Arena before the ceremony.

Arrival Time

  • Graduates should arrive at their designated assembly area at least 45 minutes prior to the ceremony.
  • Guests should arrive in time to park and be seated no later than ten minutes before the start of each ceremony.
  • The student processional will begin approximately ten minutes prior to the start of the ceremony. Entry to the Arena will not be permitted during the processional. Doors will reopen following the National Anthem and invocation.

Graduate Assembly and Robing 

  • Graduates assemble in designated areas 45 minutes prior to the start of their ceremony. Look for the sign that identifies your school and degree when you arrive at your assembly area.
  • Only graduating students are permitted in the assembly areas.
  • It is recommended that graduates arrive at their assembly area already wearing their cap and gown. Please leave handbags, coats, jackets, umbrellas, etc. with family or guests. There is no secure location to store your belongings during the ceremony. 

Graduate Line-up and Processional 

  • Choose a partner from your school and degree group and line up two abreast. Your partner must be receiving the same degree as you. Doctoral students will line up with their dissertation advisors.
  • Graduates will be given a card pre-printed with their name and email address. You will hand this card to a reader during the ceremony so that your name can be announced as you cross the stage. If your name may be difficult to pronounce, write the phonetic pronunciation underneath the printed name. 
  • Photographers from GradImages will take pictures of you as you cross the stage and will send proofs and order information to your AU email address following the ceremony. If necessary, update your email address in the blank space provided on the card.
  • Your degree group will stay together throughout the processional, ceremony, and recessional. Remain in line with your partner, and you will be guided to your seat.
  • Please keep the line straight and orderly during the processional. Do not leave the line once the processional begins. When you reach your seating row, the partner on the right enters first. Proceed directly to your chair and be seated.

During the Ceremony

  • To ensure the comfort of our guests and in accordance with local fire safety laws, aisles must be kept clear at all times. Guests are asked to cooperate with ushers and public safety officers and to keep designated areas clear.
  • Each graduate’s name will be announced during the ceremony. The university requests that guests respectfully honor this momentous occasion in a way that enables family and friends to hear each graduate’s name as it is announced. Please refrain from the use of air horns or any other type of noisemaker during the ceremony.
  • Parents and guests will not be permitted on or near the stage to take photographs during the ceremony. A commercial photographer from GradImages will photograph each student approaching the stage and shaking hands with President Sylvia Burwell. Following commencement, GradImages will send proofs and ordering information to students’ AU email addresses.

Recognition of Graduates

  • Graduates will be called to the platform for individual recognition. At the appropriate time you will be led from your seat to the ramp at the right of the stage.
  • Go up the ramp. Approach the reader at the microphone and hand the reader your name/address card.
  • When your name is announced, walk to your dean, who will hand you a ceremonial diploma and shake your hand.
  • For Ph.D. candidates only: When your name is announced, hand your degree hood to the dean. The dean and your advisor will place the hood over your head, and you will receive your diploma.
  • Proceed across the stage and shake President Burwell’s hand. A photographer will take your picture as you shake hands.
  • Continue across the stage, go down the ramp, and return directly to your seat.

Recessional

  • After members of the faculty have left the arena, ushers will direct graduates from the arena. Students, please stay in line and keep moving until all graduates have exited the arena. If the weather is bad, there will be no graduate recessional.
  • Guests should remain seated.

After the Ceremony

  • To prevent confusion, please determine in advance where you will meet your party immediately following the ceremony.
  • Each school will host a reception for their graduates and guests. Locations for receptions can be found in the Schedule of Events.

Cap and Gown Return

  • If you have rented your regalia, return your cap and gown to the cap and gown distribution location before the deadline listed in the Schedule of Events.
  • You must sign your regalia in as proof of return. Your account will be charged full replacement cost of the cap and gown if they are not returned.

Public Safety

  • Any graduate or guest exhibiting disruptive behavior during line-up or the ceremony, as determined by university commencement staff or AU PD, are subject to removal. 

  • No alcoholic beverages are permitted at the commencement ceremonies. This policy will be strictly enforced.

  • American University is committed to the promotion of a healthy and safe learning, living, and working environment. We are proud to be a tobacco- and smoke-free campus. 

American University is proud to be tobacco and smoke free

Tobacco Free Campus

American University is committed to the promotion of a healthy and safe learning, living, and working environment. We are proud to be a tobacco- and smoke-free campus. 

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Public Safety

Safety Regulations

American University welcomes all guests. To ensure the comfort of our guests and in accordance with local fire safety laws, aisles must be kept clear at all times. Guests are asked to cooperate with ushers and public safety officers and to keep designated areas clear.

Any graduate or guest exhibiting disruptive behavior during line-up or the ceremony, as determined by university commencement staff or AU PD, are subject to removal.

Alcohol and Smoking Policies

No alcoholic beverages are permitted at the commencement ceremonies. AU is a tobacco and smoke-free campus. Smoking is not permitting anywhere on campus. These policies will be strictly enforced.

Lost and Found

Articles may be deposited and retrieved at the Bender Arena concession stand, near the main entrance to the Arena. Unretrieved items of value (keys, wallets, phones) will be taken to AU PD after commencement weekend. To contact AU PD after commencement, call 202-885-2527.