Commencement Traditions

Participation in today’s Commencement activities link the graduate with ancient scholastic tradition. It is the student’s time to be recognized officially, by public proclamation, that he or she has achieved rank with the company of scholars that has framed civilization over the centuries and throughout the world.

Commencement rituals originated in Europe in the Middle Ages, when the church was the center of learning. The earliest colleges assumed some of the customs and styles of monasteries. For example, the scholar’s gown is an adaptation of the robe of the friar or priest, the hood is from the monk’s cowl, and the mortarboard cap came from the skullcap. Early American colleges followed many of these customs, some of which continue today as traditions in America.

The Mace

Symbolic since the Middle Ages of the community of scholars, the mace is carried in academic processions at colleges and universities. At Sonoma State University, the honor of service as bearer of the mace is accorded to the Chair of the Faculty.

The Presidential Medallion

The Presidential Medallion represents the authority and responsibility of the Office of the President of the University. Conferred upon the president by the chancellor of the California State University at the president’s inauguration, it is worn with academic dress on official occasions.

University Seal

The seal of the University appears on the mace and the medallion, on diplomas, and official documents. The soaring dove symbolizes peace or freedom of the spirit; the flaming torch represents the flame of learning; and the tree suggests the beauty and strength of the redwood which gives this region its name, the Redwood Empire. The Latin words lux mentis lux orbis mean “light of the mind, light of the world.”

University and Academic School Banners

The University’s heraldic banner, carried in the procession by the recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award, displays the University’s colors: dark blue and light blue. The banners for the five academic schools incorporate colors and images representing each school’s disciplines and the colors traditionally used on the regalia hoods of the various disciplines.

  • The School of Arts and Humanities banner is white (or silver); the quill and ink well symbolize the creativity that characterizes and sustains the human spirit.
  • The School of Business and Economics banner is light tan; incorporates a human figure prominent in the foreground, against a graph representing facts, figures, trends, and forecasts.
  • The School of Education banner is pale blue and forms the background for a beacon of light symbolizing the role of educators in guiding the pursuit of learning.
  • The School of Science and Technology banner is golden yellow; images represent the various disciplines and symbolize the life-affirming role of the natural sciences, the growth and development of students, and the connections among past, present and future.
  • The School of Social Sciences banner is cream; the cluster of three human figures symbolizes the essential focus of the social sciences, the study of diverse peoples living and working together.

International Flags

The flags displayed behind the Commencement platform each year represent the countries of international students who are graduating.