It takes a small army of people to get ready. At UCLA Facilities, groundskeepers patch, paint, replace sod and plant flowers. The UCLA Store's "Graduation Etc." rents and sells the caps and gowns inspired by medieval scholars' robes. The Central Ticket Office carefully controls the distribution of Commencement tickets; there are never enough.
Meanwhile, the UCLA Marching Band plots the quickest routes from one ceremony to the next. Traffic-control officers, parking attendants and catering staff brace themselves for the busiest weekend of the year. And, of course, the UCLA Events Office is everywhere, coordinating the efforts of university staff and hundreds of outside service providers.
For Jack Raab, director of the Events Office, this is his 15th year of Commencement preparations. "When I started, 'Commencement' was mainly one huge ceremony in Drake Stadium," Raab recalls. "Now Commencement is getting smaller, more personalized."
The College of Letters & Science, which confers about 6,000 degrees, holds a separate ceremony for each division. This year the Social Sciences division is in Pauley Pavilion, the Humanities and Life Sciences divisions are at the Los Angeles Tennis Center, and the Physical Sciences division has made a last-minute move to Wilson Plaza.
Many other indoor and outdoor venues are pressed into service, from the poetically named Coral Tree Walk (near Melnitz and Macgowan halls) to Powell Courtyard. "Every year, more departments and more student organizations hold celebrations and receptions — again, a smaller, more personalized approach to Commencement," Raab reports. He expects continued growth in this area.
Raab is proud of the fact that his office has been able to reduce costs more than 20 percent over the past six to eight years. "It used to be that each organization paid for the full cost of using a venue. But now we 'package' our venues, letting different groups use the same setups so that they can share set-up costs."
Raab has his share of Commencement horror stories, including unseasonable rainstorms. But he makes it a point to spend at least a few minutes just enjoying the weekend. "I see the faces and smiles and hear the cheers," he says. "Ultimately, we're all here to celebrate the accomplishments of the graduates."
Congratulations to the Class of 2001!