MAY 16, 2007

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USAO’s split commencement draws record crowd

Photo of USAO's commencement stage.
One of the largest graduating classes in decades welcomed the largest commencement crowd in history at USAO on April 20. Nearly 2,000 guests, faculty and staff members filled the Te Ata Memorial Auditorium and the USAO Field House to celebrate 142 graduating seniors. The dual-venue, live simulcast event was the first of its kind for any university in the state.

A record-breaking crowd gathered April 20 at the University of Science and Arts for the college’s first split-venue, live simulcast of commencement. Nearly 2,000 guests, students, faculty and staff members filled the Te Ata Memorial Auditorium and the USAO Field House in what may be the largest commencement ceremony ever held at USAO.

The event was the first of its kind for any university in the state.

“Let me begin by saying what a wonderful class this is and how sad it is for us as faculty to see so many great students leaving us,” said Dr. Sanders Huguenin, vice president of academic affairs. “Always at this time of year I wonder how the place will ever be the same without all of these students we’ve come to know so well.”

With the help of the Oklahoma State Regents of Higher Education, USAO President John Feaver said USAO is poised for a bright and unique future.

“Thus the State Regents have said, ‘take this special institution along a special path,’” he said. “‘Raise your admission standards to the highest in the state in order to attract Oklahoma’s best and brightest students. Provide them an affordable public option to the high and rising costs of private liberal arts institutions. Keep them in Oklahoma. Keep them from leaving the state by attracting them to high quality options at home. We will allocate special funds to help you do this.’

“This is why we exist,” Feaver said, “in our special way, to meet the needs of the state and its citizens in the provision of a top quality liberal arts experience.”

For the event, USAO administrators tackled an overcrowding issue that has plagued commencement events for years: the 850-seat auditorium cannot hold the regular 1,500+ crowd, even with a backup overflow amphitheatre in Davis Hall.

School officials considered closing the ceremony to the general public and offering five tickets to each graduate, allowing them to invite only select friends and family. But in a campus forum led by student government, and through blog sites and email, students asked for other options.

With input from students, faculty, staff and alumni, USAO officials deliberated for weeks before settling on the plan.

The administration found a permanent solution for both spring and winter commencement ceremonies by integrating a high-tech video broadcasting system in two venues – the first university in the state to do so.

By holding the ceremony in both the Te Ata Memorial Auditorium and the USAO Field House, administration separated graduates by degrees, thus splitting the commencement party in half at each venue. Patrons witnessed the entire service at both locations via video projectors feeding live footage of each venue on large screens.

Simultaneously, television viewers watched the show live on USAO’s Channel 18 at home.

A crowd of nearly 2,000 packed into both locations, with many watching from the Davis Hall amphitheatre for overflow as well. Due to the success of the split-venue telecast and positive feedback, future commencement ceremonies are planned to follow the same protocol.

A webcast version of the commencement is available for viewing online at www.usao.edu/news.

Feaver issued 98 bachelor of science degrees, 36 bachelor of arts degrees and eight bachelor of fine arts degrees.

Contact: Randy Talley, USAO, (405) 574-1337