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Ceremonial Traditions

Academic Procession

The academic procession is a featured part of the commencement program – a symbolic declaration that all members of the academic community are bound by a common purpose and shared commitment to the ideals of higher education, including the search for meaning, truth and understanding.


Academic Attire

The colors and apparel worn in the processional are symbolic of the Middle Ages. Because universities developed from church schools, both faculty and students were regarded as part of the clergy and wore clerical clothing based on monastic dress. The traditional hat developed from the skull cap worn in cold weather. In Europe, a bonnet with tassel is still worn, but in America it has been replaced by the mortarboard cap or tam with tassel.

The bachelor’s gown, with its long, pointed sleeves, is worn closed. The master’s gown has an oblong sleeve open at the wrist; the rear section is square cut. The doctor’s gown often was furred, a decoration that survives today as the velvet on the front and sleeves. Graduate degree gowns may be worn open or closed.

The tassel colors seen in the processional correspond to the field of study: Bachelor of Science, Gold; Bachelor of Arts, White; Bachelor of Liberal Studies, Crimson; Bachelor of Applied Studies,  Crimson; Bachelor of Fine Arts,  Brown; Bachelor of Music,  Pink; Bachelor of Social Work, Citron; Associate of Arts and Science, Black; Bachelor of Business Administration,  Drab; Bachelor of Music Education,  Light Blue; Bachelor of Science in Education, Light Blue; Bachelor of Science- Human Services, Light Blue; Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Apricot. Master’s degree candidates wear black tassels.


The Master’s Hood

The academic hood originally was worn over the head in bad weather. Now, it is added to the apparel of those with master’s and doctoral degrees. The master’s hood presented by UW Oshkosh’s School of Graduate Studies displays a gold and white chevron, denoting the University colors. The color of the velvet border represents the field of study in which the degree is awarded:



Honor Cords

Students wearing gold colored cords have earned the latin honors of cum laude, magna cum laude or summa cum laude. Students wearing white colored cords have earned academic distinction within their college or unit. Students wearing other cords, stoles or insignia wear them in recognition of scholarly achievement in a department or honor society or study abroad program or in the tradition of an international students’ native country.


University Seal/Chancellor’s Medallion

The University Seal/Chancellor’s Medallion symbolizes UW Oshkosh’s history and aspirations. At the center of the medal is a fountain of knowledge, divided in three to reflect the school’s commitment to realizing the creative power of individuals, the value of learning as a humanizing force and our aspiration to excellence. The word “learning” is centered at the bottom, serving as the foundation of the University’s mission. The stylized figure at the center forms the school’s initials. The outward sweeping W reflects the Wisconsin Idea-education reaching to the state’s boundaries. The date of the University’s founding appears at the bottom, representing the importance of those who came before us.

Linked to the seal/medallion are ten more silver pieces inscribed with the names of previous UW Oshkosh presidents and chancellors:

  • George Sumner Albee, 1871-1898
  • Rufus Henry Halsey, 1899-1907
  • John H. Keith, 1907-1917
  • Harry Alvin Brown, 1917-1930
  • Forrest R. Polk, 1931-1959
  • Roger Earl Guiles, 1959-1973
  • Robert Birnbaum, 1974-1978
  • Edward M. Penson, 1978-1989
  • John E. Kerrigan, 1990-2000
  • Richard H. Wells 2000-2014


The Alumni Association

The UW Oshkosh Alumni Association presents UW Oshkosh license plate holders to all graduates to remind them of their accomplishments and to Share the Pride of their alma mater throughout all of their journeys to come.

UW Oshkosh Special Events Office  
(920) 424-3300

Culver Family Welcome Center
625 Pearl Ave.
Oshkosh, WI 54901