Commencement Consolidation in 2020

3 Undergraduate Ceremonies Instead of 7 in Spring

Blue and gold streamers falling on graduates.
Commencements like this will continue in The Pavilion this year, before a change in formats next spring.

Quick Summary

  • ‘UC Davis’ (not college) commencements will put more emphasis on our institution as a whole
  • Larger ceremonies also hold the potential to bring in more noteworthy speakers, garner more attention
  • No changes to graduate and professional school commencements, or winter commencement for undergrads

Updated 12:45 p.m. May 29: The last paragraph of this story has been edited to correct the dates of the three-day period when undergraduate commencements will be held in 2020, and to note that the exact scheduling is still being worked out and will be announced this summer.

Change is coming to UC Davis’ schedule of spring undergraduate commencements — not this year, but next year.

Instead of having seven ceremonies, divided by college — three for Letters and Science, two for Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and one each for Biological Sciences and Engineering — the university will hold three ceremonies of about 2,500 students plus guests for a total of about 10,000 per commencement.

These larger events will be “UC Davis” commencements — not college commencements — to put more emphasis on our institution as a whole, as one of the leading public universities in the nation.

“Our students are graduating from ‘UC Davis,’ and we want the world to see them as UC Davis grads,” said Chancellor Gary S. May, who consulted with deans and other faculty members, and students, on the new format.

In addition, larger ceremonies will present the opportunity to bring in speakers who might not consider invitations for smaller audiences. “My hope is to have noteworthy speakers and to generate the attention that these celebrations deserve,” May said.

The chancellor and his advisors are already calling for suggestions for next year’s speakers. In making the selections and extending invitations, the chancellor and his team will do their best to assure each ceremony has a speaker of roughly the same caliber. Suggestions of speakers for undergraduate commencements should be sent by email to

A single ceremony?

Of course, a single ceremony would make the biggest statement — one commencement for up to 7,500 students annually. That would require a venue big enough to hold 30,000 to 40,000 people — all the graduates and three to four guests each. But the simple fact is, there is no such venue — indoors or outdoors — on campus or in the region.


  • No changes to undergraduate commencement this year (June 14, 15 and 16, 2019).  And no changes to winter commencement.
  • Departments and other constituencies can still hold their own, more personal graduation celebrations.
  • No changes to graduate and professional school commencements, not this year, not next year.

So the university is doing the next best thing with the venues that are available, by holding three commencements at either UC Davis Health Stadium (the new name for Aggie Stadium) or the Golden 1 Center indoor arena in downtown Sacramento. A task force will select the venue this summer as well as the times of the ceremonies, one on Friday, one on Saturday and one on Sunday.

Rest assured, if the commencements are being held in the stadium, the commencements will be held in the morning to avoid the afternoon heat. And if Golden 1 Center is the venue, the university will arrange for buses to take students to and from their commencements.

Officials said the university will attempt to keep all students with the same majors together. And departments and other constituencies will still be welcome to hold their own, more personal graduation celebrations.

To repeat: The switch to three large ceremonies will occur NEXT YEAR, 2020, and applies only to spring commencements, which will be held during the three-day period, Friday through Sunday, June 12-14, 2020, with the exact scheduling to be decided and announced this summer. Editor's note: Previous versions of this article gave incorrect dates and implied there would be one undergraduate commencement each day of the three-day commencement period, when, in fact, the details for the new format are still being worked out.

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