Dear Tulane Community,
Can you believe it’s Commencement Eve? Tomorrow night at 6:30 p.m., nearly 3,000 graduates will take part in the Unified Commencement Ceremony at Yulman Stadium.
No city celebrates quite like New Orleans, and no university honors its graduates quite like Tulane. You won’t hear any pre-recorded Pomp and Circumstance here. Instead, you’ll be treated to live performances by renowned jazz musicians Dr. Michael White, a Tulane graduate and honorary degree recipient, and Yolanda Windsay, a longtime Tulane staff member. And you won’t see an uninterrupted sea of black robes on the field. Instead, graduates will be led onto Benson Field in a procession of colorful gonfalons, led by faculty in an eclectic assortment of academic regalia. Customized mortarboards, sunglasses and umbrellas will sparkle in glitter and sequins. With gleeful parasol-toting graduates dancing down the aisles, the second-line recessional might even be mistaken for a New Orleans-style street parade.
You’ll also get to hear from not one, but two student speakers — one representing Newcomb-Tulane College and one representing our graduate and professional schools— both of whom have made an indelible impact on the university during their time here. Da’Sean Spencer, a B.A. candidate in Political Science, was instrumental in restructuring our student government to create a more equitable governing body. Arianne Sacramento has given a voice to our graduate students through a number of leadership roles, including two years as president of the Graduate and Professional Student Association; she is a candidate for three degrees: an M.D. from the School of Medicine, an M.B.A. from the A.B. Freeman School of Business, and an M.P.H. from the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.
Of course, the Unified Ceremony also features many of the traditions that you’ll find at other commencements: the presentation of teaching awards and university honors, a student performing the national anthem and so much more.
This year’s national anthem performer is James Jordan, a dual degree candidate who will receive a B.S. in Cell & Molecular Biology and a B.F.A. in Music Performance. James is a member of Tulane’s a cappella group, Green Envy, who were inspired in early 2020 to create their own arrangement of “Go Crazy” — a track written and performed by Leslie Odom Jr., the multi-talented star of Broadway, film and television. James was the featured soloist on that Green Envy performance. He probably couldn’t have imagined where he’d find himself just a few years later: seated on the platform with none other than our Commencement speaker… Leslie Odom, Jr.
Our Class of 2023 graduates have risen to the challenge of Tulane’s rigorous academic programs, earning a world-class education in and across fields that will allow them to contribute to society in an infinite number of ways. They have also learned to pivot, adapt, and embrace change in the face of uncertainty, giving them wisdom and knowledge that will position them to achieve great things in the years to come.
I can’t wait to celebrate our graduates at this special sunset ceremony, on the field where the Green Wave played their way toward that memorable Cotton Bowl victory. From the trumpet fanfare that begins the festivities to the fireworks that conclude them, the Unified Ceremony is a one-of-a-kind experience and one of my favorite moments of the year.
Congratulations to the Class of 2023, and Roll Wave!