UWT grads won’t hear names called this year

Staff writerJune 9, 2013 

The University of Washington Tacoma prides itself on its high-tech pedigree, from its Institute of Technology to its new master’s program in cybersecurity.

But at Friday’s commencement ceremony, one piece of technology is running up against a time-honored tradition. Instead of announcing each graduate’s name as he or she proceeds across the stage, college officials decided this year to use a video system to project each graduate’s name onto a big screen.

Some students are disappointed not to have the traditional, out-loud recitation of their names.

“When you graduate, you dream of hearing your name as you walk across the stage,” said Leah English, a 33-year-old mother of five and Army veteran who spent time in Iraq before earning a bachelor’s degree in social work.

The system by a company called Marching Order will show a live close-up image of each student receiving a degree, the student’s academic major and any honors received. The camera will pan as each graduate walks across the Tacoma Dome stage and shakes hands with college officials.

In addition, students who pay a $5 fee can project a short personal message to family and friends in the audience.

A live jazz band will provide a musical backdrop.

“We think it will be more personal,” said university spokesman Mike Wark.

Some students are skeptical.

Jeb Korzilius, a registered nurse who will receive a bachelor’s degree in nursing, said he spent a long time working toward this goal.

“I’d like to hear my name,” he said. “It would be nice to say I heard my name across the Tacoma Dome speakers.”

Nana Nakamaro, another social work major, said she would like her parents to hear her name as she receives her degree.

And Phillip Bernard, who’s receiving a computer science degree, said that “for the length of time I’ve been in school, I’d like some verbal recognition.”

Wark said the university made the switch this year in response to feedback from students and family members who participated in previous years’ graduation ceremonies.

“In previous years, we’ve had dissatisfaction with the reading of the names,” he said. “Students have told us they couldn’t hear their names.”

That’s partly because of the Dome’s echo-like acoustics, he said. Another factor is the enthusiasm of the crowd.

“When students receive loud and long cheers from the audience, which happens, often the next few students’ names are drowned out,” he said. “Parents have told us it’s sometimes hard to know which student walking across the stage is theirs. In listening to that feedback, we thought this new approach would work very well.”

He said officials spoke with student leadership, and also sent messages to students about the new system in April.

Several students last week told a reporter the university could employ the video system along with the traditional verbal recognition.

Wark said that idea was initially considered. He said UWT’s commencement planners talked to other colleges that had used the video system in previous graduation ceremonies, and their advice was unanimous: Don’t read the names at the same time.

For one thing, there’s a time limitation. Due to the record number of UWT students graduating — about 1,000 — two students will walk across the stage simultaneously. One will approach from the left, another from the right. Adding the verbal announcement would be “difficult to sync,” Wark said.

He said it usually takes several readers to pull off the student-by-student recitation, and they need time to practice and get pronunciations correct. Officials believe it’s too late to recruit commencement readers now.

“It’s not the kind of thing you can pull off in a week,” Wark said.

English said her overall experience at UWT has been great, and one of the things she values most about the campus is its rich cultural and ethnic diversity.

She said that one of her fellow students, whose family doesn’t read English, was upset that her family wouldn’t be able to hear her name at commencement.

“I didn’t have a high school graduation,” said English, who earned a GED and joined the Army at age 17. That’s one reason why this college ceremony is so important to her, she said.

In addition, her dad is seriously ill and unable to attend. She has pre-ordered the ceremony’s DVD that will be produced, and she thought her dad would be able to hear her name.

“I want to hear my name,” she said. “I want my family members to enjoy it.”

“But it’s not just my commencement ceremony,” she added. “It’s everybody’s.”

Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635

UW Tacoma Commencement Ceremonies

When: Friday, 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Where: Tacoma Dome, 2727 East D St.

Admission: Guest seating is complimentary and no tickets are required.

More info: tcommenc@uw.edu

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