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Commencement 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, DC 20016 United States

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Day-of Instructions for Guests

This information applies to families and commencement guests. Graduating students should follow the day-of instructions for graduates.

Before the Ceremony

  • 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.

Arrival Time and Seating

  • 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.
  • Guests should arrive in time to park and be seated no later than ten minutes before the start of each ceremony. Families and guests should go directly to Bender Arena to be seated. Only graduating students are permitted in the assembly areas. 
  • 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.

Bringing Items To Bender Arena

  • 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. Guests who do not wish to carry coats, purses, etc. should leave these items locked in their vehicles.

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.

After the Ceremony

  • To prevent confusion, please determine in advance where you will meet your party immediately following the ceremony.
  • After members of the faculty have left the arena, ushers will direct graduates from the arena. Guests should remain seated. If the weather is bad, there will be no graduate recessional.
  • Each school will host a reception for their graduates and guests. Locations for receptions can be found in the Schedule of Events.
  • 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. 

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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