Fort Hays State University, which has seen the number of its graduates nearly triple over the past decade, will divide those graduates into two separate ceremonies this spring.
Students who are receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees from the College of Business and Entrepreneurship and from the College of Health and Life Sciences will participate in Commencement at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 15. Students who are receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees from the College of Arts and Sciences and from the College of Education and Technology will participate in Commencement at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 16. Both Commencements will take place in Gross Memorial Coliseum, which is immediately adjacent to the U.S. 183 Bypass on the south side of the FHSU campus.
With the second-lowest in-state tuition in the nation and many academic programs of distinction, Fort Hays State has far more than doubled its enrollment since the turn of the century, rising to an official count of 13,825 in the fall semester of the current academic year. In the year 2000, enrollment was about 5,800.
There has been a corresponding explosion in the number of graduates. Although the numbers may change slightly when the degree-checking process concludes, the Registrar’s Office projects there will be 3,570 graduates this year, which includes associate, bachelor and graduate degrees. Degrees will go to students who completed graduation requirements in summer 2014, fall 2014 and spring 2015. This year’s total of 3,570 compares to 3,347 last year. As recently as 10 years ago, in 2005, Fort Hays State had only 1,374 graduates.
Dr. Joey Linn, vice president for Student Affairs, explained that the switch to two separate ceremonies was necessary to avoid overcrowding in Gross Memorial Coliseum. “This new arrangement will allow plenty of space at both ceremonies so that we do not have to limit the number of people who can attend,” he said. The new arrangement also ensures that each ceremony will be completed in less than two hours.
These will be the first Commencement ceremonies presided over by Dr. Mirta M. Martin, who became FHSU president last July 1. She said the option of limiting attendees was rejected out of hand. “Fort Hays State is a family, and the last thing we would do is tell some of the members of our graduates’ families that they cannot attend Commencement,” she said. “This is a day of celebration. We invite everyone to join us in commemorating the success of our students.”
An added convenience at the ceremonies on May 15 and May 16 will be a Commencement application that is accessible on smart phones, computers, tablets, iPads and other devices. It is open to the public. No special access code is needed. The link to download the mobile app, which launched this week, is http://2015fhsucommencement.quickmobile.mobi/. The app is available on the App Store (iTunes). In the App Store, simply search for FHSU or 2015 FHSU Commencement (and a selection of other key words).
Those attending either of the two Commencements will be able to use the app to access several features:
• Schedule will generate a list of sessions and events with detailed overviews
• What’s On will allow for an instant viewing of listed events in progress and events commencing within the following two hours;
• Attendees will list names, hometowns and degrees of the graduates;
• City Guide will locate hotels, restaurants and attractions using the city of Hays website;
• Info Booth will have important information about the Commencement ceremony;
• Documents will have a campus map, a digital copy of the program and the Commencement DVD order form;
• Facebook will link to the FHSU Commencement Facebook page;
• Twitter will link to a Twitter feed about Commencement; and
• Photos will allow users to upload photos to the mobile app database.
In the case of something unexpected, such as an accident on U.S. 183 Bypass during the ceremony, the Commencement app will provide real-time information about how to avoid traffic problems.
Doors will open at Gross Coliseum for graduates and their guests at 4 p.m. Friday, May 15, and again at 8 a.m. Saturday, May 16. Everyone is encouraged to arrive early.
Both Commencement ceremonies are free and open to families of graduates and to all friends of the university. No tickets are required. Shane Bangerter, a member of the Kansas Board of Regents from Dodge City, will present a short address at the Commencements. Brenda Meder, director of the Hays Arts Council, will announce the names of graduates as they receive their degrees. President Martin also will make brief remarks during the ceremonies.
The Torch, Pilot and Navigator awards will be presented at the Graduate Faculty Lunch at 11 a.m. Friday, May 15, which is open to all members and guests of the Class of 2015. Recipients of the three awards will be seated on the platform and recognized during both Commencements.
For those who want to avoid the crowds at Gross Coliseum, the entire Friday evening and Saturday morning ceremonies will be broadcast live to Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center in Sheridan Hall. With its air conditioning, easy access and comfortable seating, the performing arts center may be the preferred choice as a viewing site for many people. Gates at Gross Coliseum and doors at Beach/Schmidt will open at 4 p.m. on Friday and at 8 a.m. on Saturday.
Both Commencement ceremonies will be broadcast live by Tiger Media Network on Eagle Communication cable channels in Hays, Ellis, Russell and WaKeeney, and to dozens of other communities in western and north central Kansas on the Nex-Tech cable system. In addition, the university will make Commencement available both live and for delayed viewing over the Internet so that family and friends can watch the ceremony from distant locations. To watch the online broadcast, go http://www.fhsu.edu/ and click on Commencement. DVDs of the Commencement ceremonies also may be ordered online at the same Web location.
Graduates should park on the main campus and gather in the hallways of adjacent Cunningham Hall by 5:15 p.m. on Friday and by 9:15 a.m. on Saturday; all others are asked to enter Gross Coliseum through Gates 1, 2, 3 or 4. Traffic in the Gross Coliseum area is extremely heavy for Commencement. Parking lots adjacent to Gross Coliseum typically fill up quickly, but ample parking is available on the main campus. In the event of rain, unpaved lots near Gross Coliseum will be closed, making it necessary to park on the main campus.
Shuttle bus service will be provided both Friday and Saturday between the campus and Gross Coliseum. The shuttle buses will stop in parking lots and wherever drivers see people walking to or from Gross Coliseum.
Graduates and faculty will be seated on the main floor of Gross Coliseum. Relatives and friends of the graduates will be seated in the bleachers and the balcony. Seating for the disabled will be available in the bleacher areas on either side in front of the stage. One person may accompany an individual requiring seating in these areas. Drivers will find Gates 2 and 3, at the northwest and southwest corners, most convenient for dropping off passengers with disabilities. This area fills quickly so plan to arrive early at Gross Coliseum or view the ceremony at Beach/Schmidt. Special seating also is available in Beach/Schmidt for people with disabilities. Rebecca Luedders will interpret for the hearing-impaired in Gross Coliseum, and she will be easily visible in an inset on the large screen at Beach/Schmidt.
While Commencement is a time of celebration, FHSU officials ask those who attend to show decorum appropriate to the occasion. Air horns and other noisemakers are not allowed in Gross Coliseum. Please do not applaud individual graduates because loud demonstrations are discourteous, drowning out the names of the graduates who follow. An appropriate time for applause will be announced. The audience is also asked to refrain from moving around, and graduates should remain for the entire ceremony.