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About the Ceremonies

Barnard College's Commencement celebration encompasses three ceremonies. The Baccalaureate Service, the Barnard College Commencement, also known as the Class Day, and the conferring of degrees that is the larger University Commencement.

Baccalaureate Service

The Baccalaureate Service is an interfaith, intercultural service celebrating the completion of each undergraduate's academic career, and is the opening event of Commencement week.  It features a procession of degree candidates from Barnard and the other undergraduate divisions of the University.  The University chaplain, school deans, faculty and administrators also participate. Highlights of the service include hymns and musical selections performed by student musicians and choirs, as well as readings, reflections, and speeches by students.

The Baccalaureate Service is believed to have originated at Oxford University in 1432 when each bachelor was required to deliver a sermon in Latin as part of his academic exercise. Since the earliest universities in this country were founded primarily to educate ministers, the British practice of the Baccalaureate Service was continued.

Barnard Commencement (Presentation of Degree Candidates)

At the Barnard Commencement ceremony, Barnard degree candidates are individually recognized. The Presentation of Degree Candidates is the more intimate of the two commencement ceremonies and culminates with each Barnard degree candidate crossing the stage to receive congratulations from President Debora Spar. (Degrees are officially conferred on Wednesday at the University Commencement.)

Departmental receptions take place on the Barnard campus.

University Commencement

The Columbia University Commencement is the official degree conferral ceremony and consists of degree candidate and academic processions; the awarding of University medals and honors; the conferring of honorary degrees in arts, laws, letters, and science; a Commencement address by the University President; and the conferring of degrees in course to students from eighteen schools, colleges, and affiliated institutions.  (Candidates are not individually recognized.)

With over 11,000 degree candidates, and 20,000 participants and guests in attendance, the ceremony is an unforgettable, grand-scale celebration that appropriately marks the academic achievements of the University graduates.

All February, May and October degree candidates and their guests are cordially invited to attend these ceremonies.