Graduate School Commencement

May 10, 2024

Graduate School Diploma Ceremony

Location: Alumni Lawn


Graduate School Diploma Ceremony

The Graduate School Diploma Ceremony will be held on Friday, May 10 at 11 a.m. on Alumni Lawn. The ceremony will take approximately 2 hours and be followed by a reception for graduates and their families on Alumni Lawn.

Graduates from May 13, 2023 to May 2024  are eligible to participate in the Commencement ceremony on May 10, 2024. You will receive email messages from both the University Registrar and the Graduate School about confirming your attendance and other important information. Messages will be sent to your permanent (non-VU) email address as specified on your intent to graduate form. Please reply to all messages when requested. The Graduate School will continue to contact graduates until we receive a response. 

All Graduate School graduates will receive their diplomas and Ph.D. graduates will be hooded at the Diploma Ceremony.

Bubbly & Berries Reception

Following the Graduate School Diploma Ceremony, the Bubbly & Berries reception (fruit and champagne) will be served in the adjacent tent for all graduating students and their guests over the age of 21. ID check is required for all guests.

Founder’s Medal

The Graduate School's Founder's Medal recognizes both individual scholarly accomplishment and the importance of the Ph.D. degree as Vanderbilt's most advanced graduate degree. Therefore, it is expected that the Graduate School's Founder's Medal will be awarded to a recipient of the Ph.D. degree. 

  • Title Award Cycle

    The Graduate School will award one Founder's Medal per year on a repeating four-year cycle among four broad subject sectors. That is, one Graduate School Founder's Medal will be awarded each year to a Ph.D. student in one of these four sectors: Biological and Biomedical Science; Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Science; Humanities; and Social Science and Education. Therefore, one Graduate School Founder's Medal will be awarded to a Ph.D. student in each of the four sectors once every four years. 

    • May 2020 Founder's Medal: Humanities; 
    • May 2021 Founder's Medal: Social Science and Education;
    • May 2022 Founder's Medal: Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Science;
    • May 2023 Founder's Medal: Biological and Biomedical Science.

    This order will remain the same in subsequent years. 

  • Programs Within Four Sections

    Biological and Biomedical Sciences:  
    Biochemistry, Biological Sciences, Biomedical Informatics, Biostatistics, Cancer Biology, Cell & Developmental Biology, Chemical & Physical Biology, Epidemiology, Health Policy, Hearing & Speech; Human Genetics; Microbiology & Immunology, Molecular Physiology & Biophysics, Neuroscience, Nursing Science, Cellular & Molecular Pathology, Pharmacology, and Psychology (A&S).

    English, French, German, History, Philosophy, Religion, Spanish, Spanish-Portuguese.

    Social Sciences and Education: 
    Anthropology, Community Research & Actions, Economics, Law & Economics, Leadership & Policy Studies, Learning Teaching & Diversity, Psychology & Human Development (Peabody), Management, Political Science, Sociology, Special Education

    Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Science:  
    Biomedical Engineering, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Chemistry, Civil Engineering, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Materials Science, Mathematics, Mechanical Engineering, and Physics.

  • Selection Process & Eligibility

    Each year, the Associate Deans for Graduate Study (or equivalent) in the schools/colleges that support programs in the designated subject sector will convene a Founder's Medal Committee to carry out the competition for that year's Medal. The Committee members will number no more than six and will include those associate deans, the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs from the Graduate School, and one or more members of the Graduate Faculty, as appropriate. The Committee's tasks include soliciting nominations from the faculty, ensuring that each nominee meets the Graduate School's eligibility criteria (below), and recommending to the Dean of the Graduate School the top-three finalists (rank-ordered), from which the Dean will select that year's Founder's Medal recipient.

    Nominees for the Graduate School's Founder's Medal must satisfy at least these criteria:

    1. It must be clear that each nominee will complete the requirements necessary to receive the Ph.D. degree during the academic year in question. For example, to be eligible for the May 2024 Founder's Medal, a graduate student must complete the requirements for the Ph.D. degree during the 2023-2024 academic year, in time to qualify for the May 2024 graduation date.
    2. Each nominee must have demonstrated exceptional accomplishment in research or scholarship, as evidenced by appropriate documentation, consistent with Vanderbilt University's highest standards.
    3. The nominee must agree to attend the University's May commencement ceremony to receive the award in person.

    With the prior approval of the Dean of the Graduate School, the Founder's Medal Committee may announce additional criteria, as appropriate, at the time nominations are solicited from the faculty. When submitting its recommendations to the Dean, the Committee should include copies of each student's transcript, current CV, and any additional materials the Committee used to develop its recommendations.


All graduating students must order and wear regalia (cap, gown, hood) in order to participate, and are responsible for ordering it through Vanderbilt University. Regalia order details will be released closer to the time of Commencement. Check your inbox for updates.

The Graduate School provides free regalia rentals or $200 off the purchase of fine regalia for all PhD students.

FAQs for Day-Of Event

  • Will there be a ceremony rehearsal for graduates?

    There will not be a rehearsal or formal information meeting for the graduates.

  • Will photos be taken at the ceremony?

    A professional photographer takes photos as graduates shake hands with the Dean on stage. As a courtesy to all in attendance, please ask your guests to refrain from advancing to the front of the stage area to take photos. After the ceremony, the stage is available for additional graduate and guest photo opportunities.

  • Do graduates receive their diploma at the ceremony?

    All May 2024 graduates who attend will receive their diploma at the ceremony. Otherwise, it will be mailed to you approximately two months after Commencement. Please be sure to verify or update your permanent address through the graduation application on YES or at the Registrar’s office. The phone number is 615-322-7701.

  • Who is supposed to hood me?

    Master's students will wear their hoods throughout the ceremony. Doctoral candidates are usually hooded by their advisor, major professor or another faculty member from their dissertation committee. The candidate is responsible for inviting their hooder (confirming their willingness and availability) and providing their name and email address to the Graduate School. If your advisor or other faculty member is unavailable, one of the Graduate School Assistant Deans will hood you. PhD students wear their hoods when walking across the stage to greet (and shake hands with) the Dean during the ceremony.

  • How many hooders can I have? Is there specific criteria for a hooder?

    You are allowed to have up to two hooders. You are allowed to have a non-Vanderbilt member as one of your two hooders, but one of the two must be affiliated with Vanderbilt. All hooders must have a PhD. If you do not specify a hooder, Graduate School staff will step in as your hooder on stage. You can update this information in your YES account. You can edit this information until 04/19/2024 date.

  • How many guests can I bring to the ceremony? Do my guests need tickets?

    There is no limit to the amount of guests you bring to Commencement. Your guests do not need tickets. Seating is first come, first serve.

  • How does seating work for guests?

    Seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis in “designated” guest areas under the tent (white chairs are for guests). Handicapped seating is located in the center, front section of the guest seating area. 

    • Please keep  ALL aisles clear at all times for the processional/recessional.
    • Please refrain from cell phone use during the ceremony.
    • Smoking is strictly prohibited inside or around the tent area.
    • Pets are prohibited other than official service animals.
  • I have another question about commencement. Who do I contact?

    If you have questions that are not addressed above, please email gs_commencement for further information.

FAQs for Graduate Information

  • How can I check my Commencement RSVP?

    For August and December graduates, campus emails will expire after 4 months. This is why it is important for students to complete the Graduate Confirmation Form (GCF) and to provide their Commencement related email address, so we can continue to communicate with them via an active email listing. With the implementation of "VUnetID 4 Life," these students should still be able to access YES during the Spring semester. However, passwords expire after one year. If an individual’s password expires and must be reset, they will need to work with VUIT to reset their password.

  • How can I update my Commencement RSVP?

    If you are still a student with access to YES, you can update your RSVP by logging into YES. Here, you will be able to change information including attendance and hooders.

    For fall graduates, campus emails will expire after 4 months. This is why it is important for students to complete the Graduate Confirmation Form (GCF) and to provide their Commencement-related email address, so we can continue to communicate with them via an active email listing. With the implementation of "VUnetID 4 Life," these students should still be able to access YES during the Spring semester. However, passwords expire after one year. If an individual’s password expires and must be reset, they will need to work with VUIT to reset their password.

    You can edit this information until Friday, 04/19/24.

  • How can I sign up for urgent alerts regarding weather alerts impacting the ceremony?

    You will get emails from the Graduate School commencement team regarding any last-minute changes impacting the ceremony. The website will also be kept up to date. Additionally, graduates can sign up for text message alerts if any last-minute changes are needed due to weather. You can sign up for these alerts by texting JOIN to 615-845-9812. 

  • My legal name has changed. How do I update this information so it is reflected on my diploma and name pronunciation?

    To change your name, you must provide legal documentation regarding the name change. To update the name, we will need a copy of a birth certificate, driver’s license, marriage license, divorce decree, passport, or court ordered name change. 

    The name pronunciation needs to be included in the Graduate Confirmation Form (GCF) located in YES. Once the GCF is closed, students will need to contact the Graduate School Commencement Team. 

  • My email has changed since I graduated. How can I update it in the Vanderbilt system?

    It is important for students to complete the Graduate Confirmation Form (GCF) located in YES and provide their Commencement related email address so we can continue to communicate via an active email listing. Students provide this information on the GCF. If the GCF is closed and the student needs to change or provide an updated commencement related email address, they should reach out to the University Registrar’s Office Commencement Team to provide that information. 

  • I cannot attend Commencement this year. Can I walk next year instead?

    Unfortunately, it is against our policy to allow students to walk in a ceremony other than their graduation year. 

  • I am an MTSP student. Do I walk in the Graduate School Ceremony?

    Traditionally, MSTP students do not walk during Ph.D. commencement as they are usually back in the swing of MD school during May. They walk during the MD ceremony; they are also hooded during this MD ceremonyMSTP students are also eligible for a regalia reimbursement and will receive an email with additional details from the Graduate School as their reimbursement process will be different. 

  • I am graduating with my BS and MS. Can I walk in both ceremonies?

    Unfortunately, the timing of the two ceremonies makes it impossible for a dual degree BS/MS to walk at both ceremonies. To that end, it is our policy that students will need to select one of the two ceremonies in which to walk. Historically, students choose to attend the undergraduate ceremony, so students order the undergraduate regalia.