Fall Commencement in new sports complex

Running the risk of an unprofitable overlap of graduation and Christmas gifts, UAA students will have the chance to walk at the newly opened Alaska Airlines Center on Dec. 14, just after fall final exams week. The decision to host December and May commencements at the new arena was made at a meeting of the Chancellor’s Cabinet last Tuesday.
To address concerns that summer and fall graduates might not be interested in a fall ceremony, Student Affairs conducted a survey of students, which found 54 of 68 respondents supported the idea.
UAA Special Events Manager Bridgett Mackey, who chairs the Commencement Planning Committee, has been working with a special task force since October sharing information with the Chancellor’s Cabinet to get approval.
“It’s another thing that contributes to enforcing UAA as a community. To have it on campus really creates that front porch feeling,” Mackey said.
Mackey says one advantage of the Alaska Airlines Center is its greater opportunity for the staging of graduates in the arena prior to walking. Whereas past commencements at the Sullivan Arena have had students staged in the hallways or even outside, the Alaska Airlines Center has an auxiliary gym that can be used for that purpose.
Mackey herself remembers having to wait patiently outside the Sullivan the first time she walked.
The Alaska Airlines Center is a much smaller arena, and fall commencement may be necessitated by capacity restrictions. Previous ceremonies at the Sullivan Arena have seen 800–850 students on the floor at a time, not including faculty and orchestra. The new arena has a maximum floor capacity of 892, as well as significantly fewer seats available.
Fall commencement is common practice at schools all over the country, and there are pros and cons.
“I personally wouldn’t have a problem with it, but I think a lot of people might have an issue with vacations,” Fine Arts major Lisa Thayer said.
Fall and summer graduates may be less likely to participate in commencement if they need to wait until May to walk.
“You’ll be more likely to walk if you can walk when you graduate. Friends and family won’t have to wait as long either,” Geological Sciences major Stephen Warta said.
UAA has not held a fall commencement since the late 1980s when the university was known as UA,A before merging with Anchorage Community College.