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The Insider

Comprehending Commencement

Whether or not you have a student graduating this semester, it is important to know what to expect at commencement when the time comes. What’s the difference between commencement and graduation? Technically, ‘graduation’ is the completion of all the requirements for a degree. Commencement is the name of the ceremony that recognizes the graduation from the university.

Commencement is the pinnacle of a student’s college career and the beginning of their professional life. For those of you attending the ceremony on April 28, congratulations! It’s truly a special moment when your son or daughter will walk across the stage to be recognized and join over 80,000 of our Grand Valley alumni.

As a parent you may have some questions about the commencement process. Here are some answers to the most commonly asked questions:

   1. When will students purchase their caps and gowns?

Students should attend Grad Fest on April 16-19. This is where they will order and receive their caps and gowns, tickets for the ceremony and instructions for the day of commencement. They can also join the Alumni Association and participate in the tradition of supporting the Student Legacy scholarship.

    2. When we attend commencement, where do we park?

There are various parking structures near the Van Andel Arena, or you can park for free on Grand Valley’s Pew Campus. This is just a 5-10 minute walk from the arena. See a map of available parking, including parking for those with disabilities.

   3.  What do we do after the ceremony?

We recommend that you pre-arrange a meeting spot outside of the arena with your family after the ceremony. Many families meet at a restaurant in the area for lunch and our emeritus parents (those who’ve been there) strongly suggest that graduating families make reservations. See our list of local dining options.

For those parents who don’t have students graduating this semester, here are some things to consider as you look ahead to your own celebrations:

  • Remind your son or daughter that they need to fill out an application for graduation prior to the semester they intend to graduate.
  • You can help facilitate your son or daughter’s academic progress by encouraging them to meet regularly with their academic advisor who will assist them in staying on the right path to degree completion.
  • Also, talk with your student about building a relationship with GVSU Career Services to help prepare them for interviews, internships, résumé writing and job searches.

When commencement day arrives for your family, your son or daughter will become a Laker for a lifetime as one of Grand Valley’s alumni. Encourage your son or daughter to get involved with the Alumni Association as it provides great opportunities to network, give back, and stay connected to the university that helped to provide the foundation for their adult lives.

Alumni give back to Grand Valley in many ways and keep our university and the value of our degrees strong. We look forward to having your families be a part of this most important tradition. If you have additional questions about commencement, please visit their website or call our office at (616) 331-5709.



Parent to Parent

Blaine Koops, ’76 is no stranger to commencement at Grand Valley State University, having attended seven commencement ceremonies within the last 40 years.

Blaine, his wife Denise, their daughter Megan and other family members have graduated from Grand Valley. Their youngest daughter Melanie will be graduating within the next year. As a family of Lakers, Blaine and Denise have acquired plenty of experience in preparing for graduation. They know what to expect and have watched the ceremony evolve throughout the years.

While commencement is a serious occasion and a landmark event in students’ lives, it’s also a time to rejoice. As someone who has attended commencement more than once, Koops has noticed some changes in Grand Valley’s ceremony. “When I graduated, commencement was very formal, and it’s not like that anymore,” he said. “I think over the years it has become more of a celebration.” Koops recollected one year where there was even a Caribbean steel drum band playing outside. “Commencement is an exciting time for the graduates and they should enjoy it,” he said. This atmosphere promotes a Laker togetherness unlike any other ceremony Grand Valley hosts.

The camaraderie and enthusiasm of commencement is Koops’s favorite thing about being part of a family of Lakers. “I love the pomp and circumstance of commencement,” Koops said. “Seeing all the professors and students walk in with their caps and gowns is such a great experience.” Blaine and Denise maintain a family tradition of going out to eat after the ceremony. In the past, they have even invited some of the graduate’s favorite professors to join them.

After commencement is over, the Koops' continue to incorporate Laker traditions into their family as members of the Alumni Association. “Every year for the past nine years, our family has helped with freshmen move-in,” Koops said. “To us, Grand Valley is one big extended family and we want to help welcome the new students aboard.” The Koops family are Lakers for a lifetime, building a tradition of Grand Valley involvement and leaving their legacy for generations to come. Commencement is just the beginning for our alumni, and it’s never too late to start your own legacy at Grand Valley State University.

Tips and Tricks from a parent who knows:

  • Proper dress attire – “Dress comfortably, but business casual is most appropriate.”
  • Arrive early – “Showing up 45 minutes to an hour early is suggested."
  • Quick gifts – “They sell flowers at the ceremony, which is a great idea for female graduates.”