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The Ceremony

CSUSM Commencement Day Information

Commencement is a time for celebration and recognition of your academic success. The conferring of an academic degree is a tradition that dates back to the 12th century and is regarded as an important rite of passage for students and their families. We ask that you respect this long tradition and approach the ceremony with the proper decorum.

For those unable to make it physically to the ceremony, you may livestream on the CSUSM website or through the CSUSM Mobile App.

We have categorized the Commencement information into different categories so that you can easily navigate to the information you need. If you have additional questions, please email the Commencement Office.

Graduate Information

  • Graduate Check-in Location and Time

    Graduates should arrive with regalia, no later than one (1) hour prior to their ceremony time to check-in at the Softball Field. Please make sure to account for traffic. Graduate drop off is located at the Campus Way roundabout. Lot L (by the Clarke Field House) will be closed and barricaded for pedestrian safety.

    Once you check-in, you will receive your electronic reader card (if you have applied to graduate for the current acadmic term). You will be responsible for your reader card until your name is called on stage. It is advised to take a picture of the code in the event you lose your card from the time you check-in until your name is called.

    If you did not apply to gradaute or did not apply to graduate for the current academic term, please check-in under the sign "No Reader Card", where Commencement Staff will register you so that you can obtain an electronic reader card. Please note that if you are not a graduate of the current academic term, you will not be noted with Latin Honors (if applicable).

    After checking in, Graduates will be asked to line up behind the A-Frame noting their major on the Softball Field. During this time, you will have the opportunity to take pictures with your cohort and Crash!

    Please note that the ceremonies will start on time. If you are running late, please find a Commencement Ambassador ( blue polo) to assist you to the graduate seating area.

                                                                                       CSUSM Graduate Check-In and Drop off Map

                               Graduate Check-in and Drop off Map. Please also visit: CSUSM Interactive Map

  • Graduate Drop Off and Graduate Parking

    Graduates carpooling with guests may be dropped off at the Campus Way roundabout (near the USU) for easy walking access to the Softball Field.  Please note, guests are not permitted past the Clarke Field House and should proceed to park in Lot F after dropping off their graduate.  Guests will need to enter the venue via the general entrances to the Mangrum Track. Guests will not be allowed to walk through the graduate only areas.

    All graduates will be subject to go through  security and bag check  prior to entering the softball field. We strongly recommend that you do not bring any type of bag, backpack,  duffle bag, etc. to the event.  All bags are subject to search which may result in delays entering the venue. Please only take only the essentials with you and leave your valuables in your car or leave with your guests.

                                                                                           CSUSM Graduate Check-In and Drop off Map

                               Graduate Check-in and Drop off Map. Please also visit: CSUSM Interactive Map

    Graduate Parking: Parking lots will open 1 hour prior to the start of each ceremony and parking is complimentary. Lots C, X, Y, Z, and F are closest to the event venue. The ceremony traffic will overlap so guests will be directed to park in the closest available parking lot.  Event signage will direct guests to the Event Site (Mangrum Track and Field).

    If Graduates park in Parking Structure 1, guests will not be able to accompany graduates as they cut through the Clarke Field House to return to the structure. 

  • Regalia

    Required Regalia: All ceremony participants are required to wear full academic regalia consisting of a traditional black gown, mortarboard (cap) with tassel, and medallion (hood  for  graduate degrees).  Additional items including sashes, cords, or leis are optional. 

    Cap Decor: We kindly ask that personal modifications to the mortarboards (caps) be limited to those expressing well-wishing and gratitude or affiliation with sanctioned organizations.  Unacceptable decorations, offensive language or inappropriate images on the mortarboards will not be allowed into the venue. Decorations must also remain flat and cannot obstruct the view of the person sitting behind you, and must not contain any derogatory remarks or profanity. In order to preserve the dignity and importance of Commencement, gowns are to remain formal with no emmbellishments and decoration. Students not following these guidelines may be pulled from the graduation line up.

    What to Wear Under Your Gown: The ceremony will be outdoors with exposure to the sun and wind (and possibly rain).  Please wear appropriate clothing under your gown.  The ceremony stage is high and graduates will access it via open steps.  Please exercise caution when selecting footwear - high heels are not recommended due to the grassy area that the graduate seating is in.

    Where to Purchase your Regalia: The University Bookstore is closed for in-person purchases but have made regalia available for purchase onlilne. Please allow 2-3 weeks for shipping. Shipping costs may incur, please visit the University Store Website for more information.

    Stoles noting majors or campus organizations are corrdinated through the campus organization and/or department chair for the major.

  • Seating

    Graduates will be lining up for the Commencement Procession 15 minutes prior to the ceremony start time. After the Procession, graduates will be led to their seating in the graduate area. Graduate Seating is for graduates ONLY; guests and children will NOT be permitted to sit in this section. Non-graduates will be escorted out by security staff.

    Graduates will receive one copy of the Commencement program in the Graduate Seating area as they are seated. We ask that you are courteous to your classmates and stay for the duration of the ceremony. 

                                                                                        Mangrum Track Map at Commencement

                           Mangrum Track Map at Commencement. Please also visit: CSUSM Interactive Map

  • Having Your Name Announced

    Each graduate that has applied for the current academic term will receive an electronic reader card at check-in. If you did not apply to gradaute or did not apply to graduate for the current academic term, please check-in under the sign "No Reader Card", where Commencement Staff will register you so that you can obtain an electronic reader card.

    Your name will be read as you walk across the stage when the Commencement Stage Staff scans your electronic reader card. Please follow directions provided by the Commencement Stage Staff so your image will line up with your name appearing on the screen.

    Please note that if you are not a graduate of the current academic term, you will not be noted with Latin Honors (if applicable) nor have your name in the Commencement Program. For more information about Latin Honors, please visit the FAQ page.

  • Graduate Line-up

    Graduates will be asked to line up  in the Softball Field (behind the A-Frame that notes their major) by Commencement Ambassadors 15 minutes prior to their ceremony. They will then follow their line during the procession in order to find their seat in the Graduate Seating Area on Mangrum Track. 

    Please note that the ceremonies will start on time. If you are running late, please find a Commencement Ambassador ( blue polo) to assist you to the graduate seating area.


Back to the Commencement Information Category List

General Information

  • Commencement Schedule

    The 2021 Commencement Ceremony Dates and Times  can be found on the Ceremony Schedule Webpage.

    Dates and times are subject to change due to weather  and local government mandated health orders.

    Please note: The 2021 Commencement Ceremonies will be dependent on current COVID-19 health orders put forth by local government and the University. Any news regarding the 2021 Commencement Ceremonies will be communicated via your CSUSM email, @CSUSMCougarCentral social media accounts,  and posted to the Commencement website.

  • Ceremony Length

    Ceremony times are expected to run approximately 2-2.5 hours (estimate only, based on previous years' ceremonies).  If you have lunch or dinner reservations, allow at least 1.5 to 2 hours after each ceremony to give yourself time to meet your graduate, take photos, get back to your vehicles and exit from the parking lot in traffic.

  • Ceremony Program

    The order of the ceremony will be as follows:

    • Processional
    • Star Spangled Banner
    • Welcome and Introductions
    • University Awards
    • Special Remarks
    • Conferring of Degrees
    • Closing Remarks
    • Recessional

    Each "party" will receive 1 (one) printed copy of the Commencement Program, and each graduate will receive 1 (one) printed copy of the Commencement Program. For those that would like more than 1 (one) printed Commencement Program, please inquire with a Commencement Ambassador after the ceremony if there are extras or contact the Commencement Office 3 (three) days after the ceremony weekend. Please note that the Commencement Office does not mail out programs and requests will be for scheduled pick-up of programs.

    The Commencement Program will also be available electronically on the Commencement website.

  • Seating

    There are no tickets issued for this event, all guest seating is first come first served. Guest seats will open one (1) hour prior to the start of each ceremony and each ceremony is expected to last 2-3 hours. In order to be compliant with our City Permit and to follow rules and regulations of the Fire Marshall, each graduate is alloted 10 guests only.  The ceremony will also be livestreamed on the CSUSM website as well as the CSUSM mobile app.

    Saving large quantities of seats is prohibited and will be "unsaved" by Commencement Ambassadors and/or Elite Security, please plan accordingly.

    For the safety of our graduates, guests are not allowed in the graduate-only areas. This includes children of guests and/or graduates. Guests in the graduate-only areas will be escorted out by a Commencement Ambassador, Elite Security, and/or Univeristy Police (UPD).

    There will be a special seating area for individuals with mobility impairments. Space is provided on a first come, first served basis. Only one companion seat per mobility-impaired guest will be permitted in this area. Please keep in mind that seating is available in the grass section as well and the surface should be firm enough to allow for wheelchair access. THERE IS NO SHADE IN THIS SEATING SECTION.

                                                                                       Mangrum Track Map at Commencement

                              Mangrum Track Map at Commencement. Please also visit: CSUSM Interactive Map

  • Etiquette, Security, Lost and Found, Safety

    Lost and Found will be located on Mangrum Track and Field at the police tent, near the first aid tent. If you or your graduate loses any items at the event, send an email to CSUSM Commencement Office and we will contact you the week following the ceremony.

                                                                                         Mangrum Track Map at Commencement

                          Mangrum Track Map at Commencement. Please also visit: CSUSM Interactive Map

    If any issues may arise, please contact a Commencement Ambassador in a blue polo or visit the Security Tent (East side of track).

    Bag Search: All bags are subject to be searched. We strongly recommend that you do not bring any type of bag, backpack,  duffle bag, etc to the event.  All bags are subject to search which may result in delays entering the venue. Also, please see the "What Not to Bring" section below.

    Etiquette: Please refrain from using cell phones during the ceremony (please silence them).

    Graduates will not be permitted to leave the ceremony early, so please use the restroom before the program begins.

    Safety: The University wil be practicing and enforcing health orders put in place by local government and the CDC. 

    Guests and children are not permitted in the graduate seating area or on stage.

    Please be aware of your surroundings and stay on designated walking/seating areas ONLY. The hills have loose gravel making it easy for one to lose their balance, slip, trip, and fall. Also, there have been snake sightings in the dirt areas.

    Please follow all directions of the Elite Security, San Diego Police Department, University Staff, including UPD (University Police Department), Parking and Commuter Services, Traffic Control,  and Commencement Ambassadors.

  • Meeting up with your Graduate

    Establish a meeting place for after the ceremony. You may review the CSUSM Interactive map or see the map below to decide the best location to meet after the recessional.

                                                                                        Mangrum Track Map at Commencement

                         Mangrum Track Map at Commencement. Please also visit: CSUSM Interactive Map

    For meal reservations, give yourself approximately 2 to 2.5 hours after the ceremony to meet your guests, take photos, get back to your vehicles, and exit campus in traffic..

  • Smoking, Drug and Alcohol Policy

    This is a smoking, drug, and alcohol free event. Tobacco products, including electronic (e-cigs), recreational drugs, and alcohol are not allowed at commencement nor on campus. The University observes a strict no alcohol, no drugs, and smoke free policy - commencement graduates and guests are prohibited from bringing these items onto the premises and may be confiscated.

  • What not to bring

    Alcohol/Drugs/Smoking – They are prohibited on campus at all times. This includes vaping.

    Pets – For the safety of your pet, pets are not allowed in or around the commencement venue. Those with a service animal may be required to answer a few questions.

    Bags or Backpacks – We advise graduates to only take essentials with them to the ceremony and leave large items (for example, bags or backpacks) in their car. There is no storage at the Softball Field to hold  items for graduates.

    Guests: please only take what is required for the 2-2.5 hours time for the ceremony. To ensure everyone's safety, every bag is subject to be searched. We advise that any gifts for the graduates be given at your car or at another location. Wrapped packages will be opened by security.  We strongly recommend that you do not bring any type of bag, backpack,  duffle bag, etc. to the event.  All bags are subject to search which may result in delays entering the venue.

    Other Prohibited Items:  balloons, beach chairs, bottles, beach balls, confetti and confetti cannons, noise makers, glass, fireworks, confetti, rolling coolers, wrapped gifts, inappropriate/large poster signage, and items that may obstruct one's view.

    Security may confiscate items that they deem dangerous or obstructive at their discretion, including items not specifically noted here. When in doubt, please contact the Commencement Office. Graduates and or guests will be asked to return prohibited item(s) back to their vehicles. If the graduate and or guest chooses to leave prohibited item(s) at security check, prohibited item(s) will not be returned to the graduate or guest and will not be reimbursed.

    University faculty and staff and security will strictly enforce this policy. 

  • Directions/Map/Parking

    Traffic:  Main access to the campus is from State Highway 78 at Twin Oaks Valley Road. Take Twin Oaks Valley Road south for approximately a half-mile and you will be at campus. Follow road-signage and traffic officers to the nearest available parking. Traffic will be heavy, so please allow adequate time for travel and parking!

    Alternate Routes to Campus: Driving WESTBOUND on Highway 78 from Interstate 15, Take exit 14, Woodland Parkway/Barham Dr. and stay to the right. Take the next RIGHT (South) onto Woodland Parkway Turn RIGHT (West) onto Barham Dr. The campus is 1 mile down on the left.

    Driving EASTBOUND on Highway 78 from Interstate 5, Take exit 12 for San Marcos Blvd. Turn right onto San Marcos Blvd. Make a left onto Bent Ave. Bent Ave turns into Craven Road. Follow Craven Road 1.3 miles to the campus.

                                                                                   CSUSM Mangrum Track

                                                      Directions to CSUSM Mangrum Track via Google Maps. 

    Graduate Drop-Off Graduates carpooling with guests: may be dropped off at the Campus Way roundabout (near the USU) for easy walking access to the Softball Field. Please note, guests are NOT permitted past the Clarke Field House and should proceed to park in lot F after dropping off their graduate.

                                                                                     CSUSM Graduate Check-In and Drop off Map

                               Graduate Check-in and Drop off Map. Please also visit: CSUSM Interactive Map

                                                                                      Alternate Viewing Area Map

                            Alternate Viewing Area Map. Please also visit: CSUSM Interactive Map

    Graduate and Gust Parking: Parking lots will open 1 hour prior to the start of each ceremony and parking is complimentary. Lots C, X, Y, Z, and F are closest to the event venue. The ceremony traffic will overlap so guests will be directed to park in the closest available parking lot. Event signage will direct guests to the Event Site (Mangrum Track and Field). Parking and Pedestrian maps are shown below. You may also view a map of the campus on the CSUSM website.. If you are planning on watching Commencement from the Alternate Viewing Area, please park in Parking Structure 1. 

                                                                                      CSUSM Commencement Parking Map

                               Commencement Ceremony Parking. Please also visit: CSUSM Interactive Map

                                                                                     CSUSM Commencement Pedstrian Routes

                                                Pedestrian  Routes. Please also visit: CSUSM Interactive Map

    ADA Accessible Parking: ADA parking is available for guests with disabled placards and plates in Lot B. ADA parking will open one (1) hour prior to the start of each ceremony and parking is complimentary (parking is on a first come, first serve basis). Event signage will direct guests to the Event Site (Mangrum Track and Field).

                                                                                       CSUSM Commencement Parking Map

                               Commencement Ceremony Parking. Please also visit: CSUSM Interactive Map

    Taking Uber or Lyft? Designated Drop-Off and Pick-up location will be at Lot Z ONLY. From Twin Oaks Valley Road, enter Lots XYZ at Campus Marketplace, turn LEFT at Lot Z when directed by traffic officer to do so.

                                                                                         CSUSM Commencement Parking Map

                         Commencement Ceremony Parking. Please also visit: CSUSM Interactive Map

    Avoid the Traffic and Take the Sprinter! It is about a 15-minute walk from the Sprinter station to the ceremony site (shuttle transportation is not available). Visit the NCTD Sprinter page for schedule information.

                                                                                         CSUSM Sprinter Stop to Mangrum Track

                              CSUSM Sprinter Stop to Mangrum Track. Please also visit: CSUSM Interactive Map

  • Weather and Site Information

    Commencement is an outdoor event.  All guest seating will be in direct sunlight with no shade available, however, the weather in May is unpredictable.  Please check the weather for Commencement weekend and dress appropriately.  In the event of rain, guests and graduates are welcomed to bring their own rain gear.

    Rain or shine, all umbrellas must be lowered prior to the start of the ceremony.

    Remember to bring sunscreen; there is limited shade on the Mangrum Field and wear appropriate shoes for walking on grass (no spiked heels).

    The venue entrance at the Mangrum Track & Field is a downhill ADA compliant ramp. Some guests may require assistance exiting the field.

    If you are unable to attend, or have concerns about the weather, we will be live streaming the event on the CSUSM website.

  • Special Accommodations

                                                                              Special Accommodations ASL Visual Accommodations

    ADA parking is available for guests with disabled parking placards and plates, or those with a Special Accommodations parking permit from the Commencement Office. Those attending the commencement ceremony on the Mangrum Track, and have special accommodations, will park in Lot B. Those viewing the ceremony in the Alternate Viewing Area, and have special accommodations, will park in Parking Structure 1 (You may have to inform traffic control that you are viewing from the Alternate Viewing Area to be allowed to drive to Parking Structure 1). Please make sure that your parking placard or Special Accommodations permit is clearly visable when driving onto campus.

                                                                                        CSUSM Commencement Parking Map

                               Commencement Ceremony Parking. Please also visit: CSUSM Interactive Map

    Mobility ImpairedThere will be a special seating area for individuals with mobility impairments. Space is provided on a first come, first served basis. Due to seating limitations, only one companion seat per mobility-impaired guest will be permitted in this area. Please keep in mind that seating is available in the grass section as well and the surface should be firm enough to allow for wheelchair access. THERE IS NO SHADE IN THIS SEATING SECTION.

    Wheelchairs or motorized scooters are NOT available at CSUSM for individual use.

    CSUSM DOES NOT provide transportation/shuttles to and from the ceremony site. The ADA parking lot is directly across the street from the Mangrum Track. Please plan accordingly.

    Ramps/Inclines/Unstable Ground: The venue entrance at the Mangrum Track & Field is a downhill ADA compliant ramp. Some guests may require assistance exiting the field. Also, some of the event parking is on loose gravel and some guests may require assistance.

    Sign language interpreters will be present on stage at all ceremonies.

    Alternate Viewing Area: The USU Ballroom (2nd Floor) will be available as an alternate viewing room for those who are unable to withstand outside weather conditions or in the event that the Mangrum Track reaches capacity. 

    The USU Ballroom will livestream all ceremonies and guests may be dropped off at the Campus Way roundabout or park in Parking Structure 1 (please click on map image below). All ceremonies will be live streamed with closed captioning on the University Website

                                                                                 Alternate Viewing Area Map

             Alternate Viewing Area Map. Please also visit: CSUSM Interactive Map

    Individuals with disabilities, who would like to attend should contact Disability Support Services (DSS) by sending DSS an email regarding any special accommodation needs. It is requested that individuals requiring auxiliary aids such as sign language interpreters and alternative format materials notify Disability Support Services at least seven working days in advance. Every reasonable effort will be made to provide reasonable accommodations in an effective and timely manner.

  • Vendor Information

    CSUSM Commencement Vendor information can be found on the Commencement Contact Page.

    Due to the campus closure to in-person services, phone lines are not currently being monitored by all departments and in-person meetings are not being scheduled.

    The Commencement Office is here to answer any and all commencement questions for students and guests. Our office hours are 8am – 4:00pm, Monday through Friday in Cougar Central. We can be reached via email.  Please note that email communications may be best during the week of commencement due to our staff setting up for the ceremonies. Questions regarding diplomas or graduation applications should be emailed to the Office of the Registrar .

    Alumni Association The CSUSM Alumni Association is a committed partner of the University. Our mission is to support and encourage the advancement of the University while fostering lifelong Cougar pride, loyalty, and involvement between alumni, local businesses, and the community at large. Alumni Association dues are $40 per year or $360 for a Lifetime Membership. NEW GRADUATES will be offered a one-time deal of two years for $40. Check out the Alumni Association website to learn more! Contact us by email with any questions

    CSUSM University Store The CSUSM University Store is pleased to serve as the University’s official academic regalia provider for all graduates and participating faculty. The University Store will be on hand at all ceremonies to sell regalia items, diploma frames, Alumni products and gift items. For regalia pricing and information, please visit CSUSM University Store Online. For stoles with majors or organization names, please see department chair for the major or organization leaders.

    Jostens Jostens is a leading provider of graduation products for CSUSM. Please check the Jostens website for exact dates and times when a Jostens representative will be available on campus to answer any questions. For any questions regarding graduation regalia and diploma frames please contact the University Store, for Class Ring and Announcement information please  visit the Jostens website (enter name of school: “California State University San Marcos”).

    diFranco Photography diFranco Photography is the photographer that takes senior portraits during GradFest and will be present at Commencement. At Commencement, two photographs will be taken of each graduate; one on stage with President Neufeldt, and one off stage with your diploma cover. There are a variety of packages available for purchase; however, there is no obligation to buy. For more information or questions email diFranco Photography or visit diFranco Photography Website.

    The Commencement Group - Flowers and Class T-Shirt The Commencement Group offers orchid leis and modern fresh flower arrangements for graduate gift giving. All Commencement Group flower bouquets are wrapped in elegant, environmentally friendly wrappings, and last at least a week. Orchid leis are offered as a wearable floral alternative that looks great in graduation photos. Products are available for pre-order (to be picked-up by the graduate at graduate check-in on commencement day) or for purchase on-site on commencement day. All pre-orders will be available for pickup by the graduate only, located by the Graduate Check-in Tables on the Softball Field. Guests who are placing an order will need to inform their graduate so that they may pick it up at the Commencement Group booth. Delivery is currently not being offered. 

  • Pictures and Videos

    Visit the CSUSM Commencement Website two weeks after the ceremonies for commencement day images and videos taken by the CSUSM Office of Communications.
  • CSUSM Emergency and Evacuation Procedures

    The safety of our graduates, guests, faculty, staff, and students are of our hightest concern. Any issues should be taken to Commencemetnt Ambassadors (blue polo), Elite Security, University Police (uniformed), or to the UPD/Security tent on the East side of the track.

    In the event of an emergency or evacuation, please follow all instructions that will be announced over the PA system and those given by Commencement Staff. Emergencies will also be communicated via the CSUSM App (if notifications are turned on).

    CSUSM Emergency Procedures

    CSUSM Evacuation Procedures


Back to the Commencement Information Category List

Please note that the 2021 Commencement Ceremonies will be dependent on current COVID-19 health orders put forth by local government and the University. Any news regarding the 2021 Commencement Ceremonies will be communicated via your CSUSM email, CSUSM mobile app, @CSUSMCougarCentral Social Media, and posted to the Commencement Website.