Friday, June 15, 1 p.m. It’s College Commencement Day at UCLA and one of the biggest ceremonies of the year is about to start.
Across campus, families and graduates take photos at Bruin Bear, buy flowers and decide on meeting spots. As the graduates say goodbye and line up on the LATC South Tennis Courts, preparing for their big entrance into Pauley Pavilion, families make their way into the arena, where they survey the crowds of people already packed into the stands, trying to figure out where they’ll have the best view of their graduate.
Inside Pauley Pavilion Club, another group is gathering: the UCLA faculty and student speakers who will lead the ceremony. Here, faculty put on their commencement robes and get into position for their march down the center aisle of Pauley Pavilion’s John Wooden Court to the stage after the graduates have been seated.
For the faculty, commencement isn’t a once in a lifetime experience – it’s an annual one, a ritual they participate in every year to honor their graduating students. Yet in the hour leading up to the ceremony, they are as excited as the graduates marching into Pauley Pavilion, eager to celebrate the Class of 2018 and start bringing another academic year to a close.
Read on for a behind-the-scenes peek backstage at UCLA College Commencement’s 2 p.m. ceremony.
1:00 p.m. College staff volunteers arrive and begin their assignments. Volunteers help set up food, pin hoods to faculty gowns, organize programs and more to make sure the ceremony runs smoothly.
1:17 p.m.: Faculty begin to arrive and get dressed in their commencement robes, with the help of staff volunteers.
1:29 p.m.: A professor compliments her colleague’s matching red robes: “You look like you graduated from the same place I did!”
1:36 p.m.: Faculty chat about their summer plans.
1:37 p.m.: Chancellor Gene Block arrives.
1:40 p.m.: Faculty begin finding their places in the lineup. Chairs are labeled with the names of each member of the faculty and students who will have a speaking role in the ceremony in the order in which they will walk out so they end up in the correct seat onstage. For those who will not be speaking, signs indicate where each College division should gather so they are seated together onstage.
1:49 p.m.: Members of the VIP party – Carol Block and special guests of the stage party – are escorted out to their seats in Pauley Pavilion as the graduates begin the procession.
1:51 p.m.: A professor takes a grinning selfie of himself in his robes.
1:52 p.m.: Chancellor Block takes photos with several faculty members and the student speakers.
1:55 p.m.: An announcement is made about a change to the seating procedures, prompting laughter and jokes around the room about how well the faculty will remember what to do.
2:04 p.m.: Watching a live feed of the graduates entering Pauley Pavilion, student vocalist Ritu Sreenivasan exclaims, “Wow, that’s so cool! I’m gonna cry.”
2:06 p.m.: Dean Patricia A. Turner greets Sreenivasan and student speaker Emily Yamane, who says, “I’m so nervous!” Dean Turner assures her, “You’ll be fine.”
2:08 p.m.: The faculty gather at their assigned seats or with their division to prepare for the processional.
2:16 p.m.: The faculty stand and line up, ready to walk out.
2:18 p.m.: Faculty are told they will have to wait a few more minutes because the graduates are backed up getting into Pauley Pavilion.
2:22 p.m.: Professors and students pose for pictures with each other as they wait.
2:24 p.m.: The faculty are led down to the stage of Pauley Pavilion!