Cowell Commencement 2017

Happy graduates at the Cowell Commencement


In addition to commencement and beach traffic to Santa Cruz, Caltrans work on southbound 17 may continue into the commencement weekend, June 17-18. The highway is reduced to 1 lane 7 am - 2 pm June 12-16 for roadwork. Traffic will most certainly be congested Friday, June 16. It may take several hours to travel to Santa Cruz on this highway. Please plan alternate routes or plenty of extra time to arrive.

Saturday, June 17, 2017
1:30-3pm (procession arrives at 1:20pm)
UCSC East Field
Keynote Address by: Todd Thorpe

The Cowell Commencement ceremony is one of the finest of Cowell traditions and a joyful community celebration. Faculty, staff and students are led in a procession by a bagpiper. The ceremony includes keynote and student speakers prior to the presentation of the graduates and the awarding of scrolls.


Please thoroughly read Cowell's Information for Graduates page and register to participate ("Step 2"). There are multiple steps for grads to complete, some with firm deadlines. There are event-related "todos" regarding parking passes, ordering regalia, rehearsal and more.

graduates gathered in the courtyard


Admission Tickets and Parking

Tickets are not issued to attend the Commencement ceremony and there is no limit on the number of guests. However, each student participant will be issued only two (2) Commencement parking passes. With 5 ceremonies on Saturday, parking on campus is very limited and we can not issue more than two passes per student. Cars displaying a Cowell Commencement parking pass will be directed to the East Remote parking lot. Guests may shuttle (or walk) to the ceremony site.

Graduating students may pick up their two parking passes between June 5 and June 16 and may exchange one (or both) of their standard commencement parking passes with a pass for the disability parking lot, as needed. Additional disability related accommodation for grads or guests are covered on this page; please note that sign language interpretation should be requested no later than Friday, May 5.

Commencement procession led by bagpiper and drummerGuest Seating

Seating at the East Field ceremony site begins at 12:30 pm (we ask that you not arrive earlier, as another college ceremony precedes ours). To fully enjoy the procession please be in your seat by 1:20 pm, when the procession of students, faculty and staff arrives. The program will begin promptly at 1:30 pm, once graduates are seated.

Event Site

The ceremony is held on a grass playing field that overlooks the Monterey Bay. The stage is flanked by two sections of graduate seating, on bleachers that face the audience. Guests sit in folding chairs and there are no steps involved in the audience section. There is limited shade seating at the rear of the audience available on a first-come, first-served basis. All guests should bring sun protection, including hats and sunscreen. You may review a picture of the event site.

Print Program

To reduce waste, one program will be provided to each party of five or fewer. If your party would like more for keepsake, rest assured that many programs are left at the ceremony site following the event. Large-print programs will be available.

Resources and Amenities

Located to one side of the audience will be a Programs & Information tent, a Disability Support tent and a First Aid tent. All campus shuttles and vans drop passengers at the edge of the grass field (no private cars are allowed access to the event site). Drinking water is provided free of charge. UCSC Catering will provide light refreshments for purchase (cash preferred), and the campus BayTree Bookstore will have memorabilia, sunscreen, and flowers for purchase. Restrooms are available about 50 yards from the shuttle drop. You may review a picture of the event site.

Two wheelchairs and attendants will be available where the shuttles and vans disembark, to assist guests from the edge of field to the audience section. Note these wheelchairs remain at the event site to support the series of ceremonies.

Consider making your hotel or dinner reservations now! For a list of Santa Cruz County lodging, click here.

Your Comfort and Safety

  • wear light-colored clothing, but layers may be appreciated
  • wear comfortable, flat shoes
  • wear a hat with a brim that will provide shade
  • drink plenty of water 
  • use sunscreen

And just in case...bring an umbrella! The ceremony happens rain or shine. Because of visibility issues, umbrellas may not be used for shade during the ceremony unless you are seated in the last row of the audience or standing to the side/behind other guests.

For the comfort and safety of all guests, please keep aisles clear of tripods, strollers, walkers and other items. Air horns and other noisemakers are not permitted, nor are aerial drones. Thank you for your cooperation.

UCSC's "No Pet" Policy

Please note that UCSC has a "no pet" policy that is strictly enforced. (Animals utilized for disability accommodation as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act are allowed.) If you enter campus with a pet, you will be asked to leave. There are several "pet hotels" in Santa Cruz County equipped to board your pets; please check local listings. Thank you!


GradImages is the official photographer for our ceremony and will take photos of each student participant. Students will have an opportunity, when registering to be in the event, to provide their contact info. These students will receive free proofs via email from GradImages within 5 days after the event. Visit our photography page to learn more about event photography options.

International Guests

Do you need to invite extended family to the United States from another country? See the International Student and Scholar Services resource page:

Directions to UC Santa Cruz

From Hwy. 17/ Hwy. 1 Northbound
Follow signs for "Hwy. 1 North/Half Moon Bay". This section of Hwy. 1 becomes Mission St., a city street. Turn right on Bay Street (there is a directional sign and a traffic signal), up the hill to UCSC.

From Hwy. 1 Southbound
Hwy. 1 becomes Mission St. as you enter town. Turn left on Bay Street at the signal, up the hill to UCSC.

At the UCSC entrance, follow the signs to EAST and COWELL. Parking attendants will direct you to the correct lot based on the parking pass displayed on your dashboard (there are 5 ceremonies on campus on Saturday). Shuttles will take you to and from the Cowell commencement ceremony, or you may choose to walk.

A directional map to campus or detailed and interactive UCSC map are available online.