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GS to let students choose between Statesboro, Savannah graduations
Diploma walks at Paulson, use of tickets in the plan
GS graduation
After changing spring commencement this past May from a single ceremony at Paulson Stadium to multiple ceremonies in Hanner Fieldhouse and in Savannah, Georgia Southern will return to Paulson for winter and spring commencement in 2019 and 2020. ABOVE, graduates give a round of applause during Georgia Southern's 2018 spring commencement at Paulson Stadium. (SCOTT BRYANT/Herald file)

Georgia Southern University's new solution to its graduation location problem looks a lot like the pre-2019 practice of having campus-oriented ceremonies in Statesboro and Savannah. But now, guests will need tickets and graduates will generally be allowed to choose between locations.

In May, the university held five separate ceremonies for its five Statesboro-headquartered subject-area colleges in Hanner Fieldhouse and three separate ceremonies for its three Armstrong Campus-headquartered colleges at the Savannah Convention Center. In addition, one university-wide ceremony, with a celebrity speaker but without individual names being called for graduates to walk across the stage, was held at Paulson Stadium in Statesboro.

All of this was done within a 36-hour span of a Friday and a Saturday. Feedback from an overwhelming majority of the more than 2,000 respondents to a university survey was critical of these ceremonies. But the university then used the survey results, focus groups and other discussions to guide the creation of a new plan.

The plan was developed over the summer by a campus committee that included the Student Government Association president. The committee settled on a new format Aug. 12, and it was ratified by university President Dr. Kyle Marrero's extended leadership group, according to an announcement provided by Communications Director Jennifer Wise. In his Aug. 14 convocation speech, Marrero said the plan would be returned to student leaders for a final round of input, and it was presented to SGA representatives at a retreat last weekend.

"Providing a quality, robust experience for graduates and guests was paramount to the plan creation," states the release Wise provided.

Other priorities identified during discussions were providing ceremonies both in Statesboro and Savannah, allowing students to "choose which campus ceremony they want to attend," and ensuring that students are properly recognized and that the university is able "to safely plan, staff, police, manage and support different ceremonies," the release states.

The university announced general plans — with exact times and other details still to be filled in — for the fall commencement ceremonies, to be held this December, as well as the larger spring ceremonies to be held in May 2020.

Fall 2019 graduation

This fall, students receiving bachelor's degrees and students receiving graduate degrees, such as master's degrees and doctorates, will graduate together. All students can choose where they would like to graduate: 

▲ Savannah Convention Center on Friday, Dec. 13, in the afternoon.

▲ Paulson Stadium in Statesboro on Saturday, Dec. 14, in the afternoon.

Spring 2020 graduation

In the spring, undergraduate students and those receiving graduate degrees will graduate in separate ceremonies. Undergraduates will be able to choose a ceremony based on the location where they would like to graduate, but graduates will have a single ceremony on the Statesboro campus.

▲ An undergraduate-only ceremony will be held in Paulson Stadium in Statesboro on the evening of Friday, May 8. If needed, multiple ceremonies may be scheduled based on the size of the graduating class or the number of graduates and guests who indicate they plan to attend, the university indicated.

▲ Another  undergraduate-only ceremony will be held in Savannah on the morning of Saturday, May 9. But the university's announcement did not identify a specific venue and instead stated that "there may be multiple ceremonies scheduled based on venue selected and/or RSVPs to this ceremony."

▲ The spring graduate-only ceremony, for recipients of master's and doctoral degrees, will be held the afternoon of Saturday, May 9, inside Hanner Fieldhouse in Statesboro.

So, only the spring graduate-student ceremony, and none of the larger baccalaureate ceremonies, are slated to be held at Hanner Fieldhouse, where overflow crowds occurred at some of the May 2019 ceremonies and in the past.

"The new format takes into account many of the complications that have occurred during past ceremonies," the announcement stated. "Some of the issues included the size of the venues available in Statesboro and Savannah, timing, weather, staffing, security, traffic, parking, length of ceremony and overall experience for spectators."

In all of the ceremonies, "each graduate will be recognized individually … as they walk across the stage," the announcement stated. "All colleges will be represented at both locations and students will be organized by college."

Tickets required

Marrero had said that the used of guest tickets would be a necessary part of the plan. This week's announcement confirmed the use of tickets, but without stating how many will be assigned to each graduating student.

"The number of tickets given out to each graduate will depend on the size of the graduating class, and university staff are already exploring options on how to create a ticket bank where unused tickets from one graduate can be made available for others who need extra tickets," the announcement stated.

It also noted that there will be no charge for tickets and stated that the university will still provide overflow seating and alternative viewing areas and internet live-streaming for those who do not get tickets.

When decided, the ticket counts, ceremony times and other details will be posted at www.georgiasouthern.edu/commencement.

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