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Big changes to UTEP graduation ceremony

By: Melissa Gundersen
EL PASO, Texas -- Graduation is getting a new look this year as the University of Texas at El Paso prepares to throw a super ceremony.

Typically UTEP holds three separate graduation ceremonies at the Don Haskins Center. This year, in honor of the university's 100th anniversary, everyone will pack into the Sun Bowl Stadium.

"It's going to be all the students together in one place. That's estimated to be 2,500 students," said UTEP President Diana Natalicio.

Natalicio said the last time the university held a special commencement in the Sun Bowl was in 1998 for the universitys 100th graduation. With more graduates this year than 16 years ago, though, Natalicio hopes to just about fill the stadium.

"I think it's very representative of just the imagery of what UTEP represents -- just a very united college," said student Paulina Lopez.

For the university's centennial there will be more changes than the venue.  Every student will get a special Class of 2014 centennial medallion.  Also, since this years ceremony will start at 7 p.m. to keep people out of the hot sun, there will be a fireworks display.

Even with such an extravagant graduation, Natalicio said it's important to keep with tradition and call each student up to the stage individually.

"We know that this is a major milestone in their lives, and in the lives of their family members and friends.  So we want each one to have a moment in the spotlight," said Natalicio.

While graduating student Dalton Gorden said he's looking forward to certain aspects of graduation, he can't get passed one thing.

"That's going to take forever, especially since I understand we're starting at 7 in the evening, so my first though was, man we're not going to get out of there until 2, said Gorden.

UTEP graduation ceremonies typically last about two hours. Despite a huge spike in the number of names they will call in one ceremony, this year staff is hoping to cap the super ceremony at three hours.

"We're not going to have a lot of preliminaries.  We're going to get directly to the point of the diplomas," said Natalicio.

That means the ceremony may not have a key note speaker. Also, when students are individually called to the stage there will be two people calling out names to speed up the process, instead of the typical one announcer.

"As a student, I suggested the committee put some snacks or something to keep us entertained," said Lopez.

"As long as we're not there until 2 in the morning I'll be happy," said Gorden.

Graduation is Saturday, May 17, at 7 p.m. at the Sun Bowl Stadium. KFOX14 will stream UTEP's commencement ceremony live on KFOXTV.com.

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