10 things to know about Stanford Commencement

Stanford’s Commencement ceremony is held in Stanford Stadium.

Stanford is preparing for Commencement Weekend 2018, which will be held June 15 to 17. The event will attract some 30,000 people to campus, so families are encouraged to plan their visit early. Here are 10 things families might find useful to know about Stanford’s graduation.

There is a new clear-bag policy for Stanford Stadium.
Clear tote bag

Family and friends can only bring approved clear bags into Stanford Stadium for the Commencement ceremony on Sunday. The new policy is designed to improve safety. Clear bags will be distributed at the parking lot and outside of the gates at the stadium. The Stanford Bookstore and Athletics Shop will also sell clear bags before and during Commencement Weekend. Or, you can use a one-gallon clear Ziploc bag. Learn more about the policy.

The weekend’s festivities involve a lot of walking.

Wear comfortable shoes during Commencement Weekend. The campus is large, the events are spread out and driving to and from events can be very difficult. Walking is the best way to get around. So, if a member of your family is disabled or has mobility concerns, we strongly, strongly encourage you to plan in advance by visiting the Disability Resources page on our website. We cannot emphasize this advice enough.

It can get hot.

That’s especially true in Stanford Stadium, where there is very little shade and the audience is seated facing the sun. Temperatures can climb into the 80s and 90s, so we urge everyone to dress in comfortable clothing, and bring sunscreen, a hat and water. The long-range forecast suggests we could have hot weather that day. Limited food and beverages are also available for purchase in the stadium. Unfortunately, umbrellas are not allowed because they impede the views of others. Nearby Maples Pavilion will be used as an indoor, air conditioned location with live streaming of the event so that those having difficulties with the sun and heat can find relief. No tickets are required. It’ll be first come/first served, but there will be a lot of available seating there, including disability seating.

You should make travel arrangements as soon as possible.

You should especially consider making hotel reservations as soon as possible. There are limited hotel accommodations in Palo Alto and the neighboring communities. Visit the Lodging page for ideas about where to stay. The Commencement web pages includes pages suggesting how to get to campus, where to dine and where to park.

You don’t need a ticket to get into the stadium.

There is plenty of room for everyone in Stanford Stadium for the Commencement ceremonies on Sunday, so there is no need for tickets. There may be a need for tickets, however, for the diploma ceremonies, which are held right after Commencement throughout campus. Families should check with their graduate’s department about whether or not its ceremony requires a ticket or an RSVP.

Sterling K. Brown

Actor and alumnus Sterling K. Brown is the Commencement speaker.

Stanford alumnus Sterling K. Brown, who recently made history by becoming the first African American to win both the Screen Actors Guild Award and Golden Globe for best actor in a dramatic TV series, will be the 2018 Commencement speaker. Brown is well know for his starring roles in the TV series This Is Us and the motion picture Black Panther.

Elizabeth Alexander is the Baccalaureate speaker.

Writer, poet and memoirist Elizabeth Alexander is the speaker for Baccalaureate, which is a multi-faith celebration led by graduating students that takes place on the Saturday of Commencement Weekend in the Main Quadrangle at 10 a.m. Alexander is also the president of the Mellon Foundation. In 2009, then President-elect Barack Obama asked Alexander to compose and read a poem for his inauguration.

The diplomas are distributed at individual diploma ceremonies not at Commencement.

Following the Commencement ceremony on Sunday morning, graduates receive their diplomas during individual school and department ceremonies located throughout campus. Most of those ceremonies begin at 12:30 p.m., however start times may vary. Many of the ceremonies conclude by 2:30 p.m. and are followed by brief receptions. The Commencement brochure will have the locations of each individual diploma ceremony.

Parking is available but challenging during Commencement Weekend.

Parking for the Baccalaureate ceremony on Saturday will be available on the streets that intersect Palm Drive and in many visitor lots throughout campus. Parking for Commencement will be available in the parking lots surrounding the stadium. Diploma ceremony sites may be located some distance from the stadium. So if you have to move your car to a new location between ceremonies, you should plan your time accordingly and use caution given the amount of pedestrian traffic on campus during Commencement Weekend. After Commencement, there will be limited shuttle service between the Commencement parking area and locations along Serra Mall that are likely closer to the diploma ceremonies.

What if it rains.

In the unlikely event of inclement weather, Stanford will announce by 7 a.m. on Saturday alternative plans for Baccalaureate and by 7 a.m. alternative plans for Commencement. Alternative plans will be shared on Stanford’s KZSU (90.1 FM) and on the Stanford Commencement homepage.

Visit the Commencement webpages for more.