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History of Commencement and Academic Regalia

History of Commencement and Academic Regalia

The ceremonies of commencement are a time to reflect upon the history of colleges and universities. The degrees and the regalia associated with them come to us from medieval European universities.

Four academic degrees are generally recognized: associate, bachelor, master and doctorate. Associate degrees are offered by two-year community and state colleges. The bachelor's degree, or baccalaureate, takes its name from medieval tradition. The master's degree was a license to teach (licentia docendi), so the "master" was an appropriate title. The earned doctorate represents advanced study and independent research in a specialized academic discipline. Those standards still apply to the doctorate, except for those conferred honorary doctoral degrees granted for meritorious and distinguished service in public or private endeavors.

From medieval practice, academic dress has three items: cap, gown and hood. In reviving the use of these items for the United States, an intercollegiate commission in 1895 drafted a code that most colleges follow.

Associates wear a colored gown identifying the school colors or a gray gown, whichever the college prefers. The bachelor's gown has long pointed sleeves hanging nearly to the knees. The master's gown has a long oblong sleeve, open at the wrist. The doctor's gown is faced with a broad strip of velvet and has three bars of velvet on bell-shaped sleeves.

For all degrees, the mortarboard is the traditional cap. The familiar "mortar board" with a tassel hanging to the left side is appropriate for all degrees. Those holding a doctorate may wear a tassel of gold thread.

The academic hood is the identifying symbol of the degree. The associate degree is a short square hood and the colors identify the college which is awarding the degree. For advanced degrees the length indicates which degree is represented. The color of the velvet strip indicate the field of study in which the most advanced degree was earned. The most frequently seen colors are white for liberal arts, yellow for science, light blue for education, pink for music, lemon yellow for library science, drab blue for business, black and white for journalism, purple for law, scarlet for divinity, blue for philosophy and green for medicine.


 Gulf Coast State College awards Associate in Arts and Associate in Science degrees, the Applied Associate in Science degree, College Credit Certificates and Bachelor's degrees. Our graduation ceremony is held each spring for all interested graduates. Students who graduate in the fall and summer terms must contact the Graduation Specialist prior to the spring deadline date if they want to participate. Please consult the college catalog for dates.

Some degrees are awarded with special recognition. If you have achieved appropriate standards in your studies, the words cum laude (with honors), magna cum laude (with high honors), and summa cum laude (with highest honors) are used. These achievements are recorded on your diploma and in your official transcripts. If you are a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the honorary society for two-year colleges, you are recognized at Gulf Coast State College by wearing a gold stole over your academic gown and this is also noted on your transcript.

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