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Education

Fall Commencement: A brief history of Cal Poly's December ceremony

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Flickr member Tan Huynh
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Cal Poly students are preparing for Saturday's Fall Commencement, a tradition that started in 1955. 

Although Fall Commencement started in the '50s, there were only two ceremonies that decade. It returned to Cal Poly in 1984 with only 262 graduates that December. This ceremony marks the 30th consecutive year the university has held Fall Commencement.

Nowadays, the average number of graduates hovers around 900 students, said Tessa Stevens, Director of Commencement at Cal Poly. She says there are several reasons the university offers a fall ceremony; the quarter system provides students with more opportunities to finish courses and spring graduation capacity is limited. However, she says the primary reason Cal Poly offers Fall Commencement is students are eager to enter the workforce.

"They want to bring their family and their friends together to celebrate with them as soon as they're finished, so they can then launch into their career," said Stevens. 

Kendra Berner is one of these graduates finishing up early. She said she likes the intimacy of the ceremony.

"It's really neat. They basically recognize each student individually instead of a group of students. So I wanted to be a part of that," Berner said. "Also, I didn't know where I'd be job-wise in the springtime." 

Fall Commencement is certainly not just for fast-track grads. Cal Poly's recent graduation rates show up to 72 percent of students take five or even six years to graduate.