According to the University of Central Arkansas’ Vice President of Communications Jeff Pitchford, the school’s administration has begun talks of combining its spring commencement exercise into one ceremony.

Traditionally, the May commencement has been divided into three ceremonies, each lasting about an hour and a half.

"Dr. Meadors is exploring the possibility of doing that instead of having three," Pitchford said. "He wants us to look at making graduation into a larger ceremony in the football stadium."

Pitchford said Meadors prefers the practice adopted by other universities, where a large ceremony takes place in the morning, the crowd is excused, and reconvenes in respective colleges for a more personal or intimate ceremony.

With such a large number of graduates, students will be unable, at the morning ceremony, to walk across a stage to receive their diplomas.

Pitchford said it would be each student’s opportunity to receive their diplomas from their faculty advisors and professors, and among their fellow classmates.

Meadors traditionally addresses the graduates and families at each of the three ceremonies.

Pitchford said the university will consider inviting a well-known speaker to deliver the morning address. 

"We have the idea of having someone come in, and we’ll pay them if that’s the route we go," Pitchford said. "We do have four distinguished speakers in our speaker series this fall. Maybe that’s where we will put one of those types of speakers. That would be a neat concept to bring to Conway. A policy-maker, a business leader, anyone inspirational, our governor or a senator would be welcome. 

Spike Lee, Nicholas Sparks, Deborah Norville, and Dave Barry are scheduled in the school’s speaker series.

"I don’t know if that is what we will do but I think that will add to the ceremony."

The University’s six colleges would meet on their own schedules in several of the school’s halls, and the largest college would meet in the Farris Center.

Pitchford said August and December commencement ceremonies will not be effected by the possible change.

Venita Jenkins, associate director of media relations at UCA, said this May’s ceremonies graduated more than 1,200 graduates. Four hundred and thirty-eight walked in the morning ceremony, and an additional 766 in the afternoon.

According to Jack Gillean, vice president for administration, no policy requires board approval before commencement ceremonies undergo time or structural changes. 

"Dr. Meadors will approach the board about it, of course. Nothing is yet set in stone. We’re still looking at if we can do this logistically," Jenkins said.

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