Commencing a New Era

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A look back at campus life since the last Camp Randall graduation in 1990.

Graduates celebrate completing their UW degrees at Camp Randall in this 1978 photo. In May, commencement will return to the stadium for the first time since 1990.

This May, UW graduates will go where no commencement robes have gone for almost a generation: Camp Randall.

After a twenty-four-year absence, spring commencement will once again be held in the stadium, thanks to the efforts of a small group of persistent undergraduates who worked closely with campus administrators to make the big move.

Commencement was shifted from the stadium to the Wisconsin Field House in 1991 and then to the Kohl Center when that facility opened in 1998. At the time, event planners hoped dividing the graduating class into five smaller, college-based ceremonies would create a more intimate experience for all. Yet something was lost in the process. Lori Berquam, vice provost for student life and dean of students, says that small ceremonies make it more difficult to comprehend the number of graduates coming out of the UW each year — and to imagine the impact those graduates will make on the world.

“All of our students are going to go forth and do great things, and it’s hard to get the enormity of it when you see it in little, bite-sized pieces,” Berquam says.

Discussions for a return to Camp Randall began four years ago, but the plans were put on hold when former Chancellor Biddy Martin PhD’85 left campus. Shortly after Chancellor Rebecca Blank took over in fall 2013, she approached senior class officers to resurrect the idea.

Sarah Neibart x’14 was part of the early discussions, and she’s excited to see the idea come to fruition — and to walk in the new ceremony she helped design.

“This is going to be an incredible ceremony filled with Badger pride,” she says. “I really cannot wait to see the image of the six thousand students tossing their hats off in the middle of Camp Randall.”

In 1990, the last time spring commencement was held in Camp Randall, most undergraduate members of the Class of 2014 were not yet born. We figured it’s time to look back at how things have changed.

Published in the Spring 2014 issue

Tags: Campus history, Commencement, Student life, Students

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