The Countdown Is On: Going Behind the Scenes at Commencement

The big day in May at the UA is nothing short of a spectacle, and it takes an army to pull it together. Kasey Urquidez oversees much of it — and loves it, even after more than two decades at the University.
May 11, 2016

Over 60,000 square feet of plastic flooring, four miles of electrical cable and more than 40 tons of ballast holding up six, 36-foot steel towers. That's only part of what it takes to put on the grand show that is Commencement at the University of Arizona. 

Kasey Urquidez, the UA's vice president of enrollment management and student affairs, oversees the planning and production of the event, which will provide a majestic send-off for the University's graduates on Friday night in Arizona Stadium.

"I still get this amazing feeling when we get to the night of the event," says Urquidez, who has been with the UA for more than 20 years. "It's beautiful with the lights and it just looks so cool."

More of Commencement 2016 by the numbers:

  • UA President Ann Weaver Hart will confer about 6,000 degrees (more than 4,500 bachelor's degrees, 1,100 graduate degrees and nearly 300 professional degrees).
  • More than 4,000 graduates are expected to attend the ceremony (in addition to May graduates, degrees will be conferred on December 2015/Winter 2015 and also August 2016 candidates).
  • More than 40,000 guests are expected to attend.
  • The Arizona Stadium gates will open at 5:30 p.m. Friday.
  • The live pre-Commencement show will begin at about 6 (undergraduates will not process; graduate students will process with administration, faculty and VIPs).
  • The ceremony, which begins at 7:30, is expected to last between 90 minutes and two hours.
  • More than 300 volunteers are helping with Commencement.
  • U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy will be the speaker and is one of three individuals who will receive an honorary degreee from the UA.