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Commencement 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, DC 20016 United States

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Day-of Instructions for Graduates

This information applies only to graduating students. Families and guests should follow the day-of instructions for guests.

Before the Ceremony

  • There is no rehersal for commencement; graduates will receive cap and gown distribution and line-up instructions via email.
  • All American University Commencement ceremonies take place in Bender Arena. Ceremonies are based on school or college; there is no university wide ceremony. Each ceremony lasts two to two and a half hours.
  • Use the commencement hashtag #2019AUgrad for the Fall 2019 ceremony and #2020AUgrad for the Spring 2020 ceremonies on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Your posts will appear on the screens inside Bender Arena before the ceremony.

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. Families and guests should go directly to Bender Arena to be seated.
  • 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 coat check or secure location to store your belongings during the ceremony. 
  • Large signs, banners, noise makers and other objects that impede visibility or sound will not be permitted.

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. 
  • University photographers and videographers will document the ceremony for possible use on the AU website and in the press, AU marketing materials, and other university publications.
  • 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. Graduates and 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 graduates and 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.

Recognition of Graduates

  • Following the president's charge to the 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. Following commencement, GradImages will send proofs and ordering information to your AU email address.
  • Continue across the stage, go down the ramp, and return directly to your seat.


  • After members of the faculty have left the arena, ushers will direct graduates from the arena. 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.

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.
  • Bachelor's and master's are keepsake regalia and do not need to be returned. The rental doctoral regalia must be returned immediately following the ceremony to the Bridge Cafe, Butler Pavilion, 2nd floor.
  • You can view the archived video online at A link will be available on the website after the ceremony.

Public Safety

  • Any graduate or guest exhibiting disruptive behavior during line-up or the ceremony is subject to removal. 

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

  • Lost and Found articles may be deposited and retrieved at the Bender Arena concession stand. Unretrieved items of value (keys, wallets, phones) will be taken to AU PD after commencement weekend. 

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