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Tassel Talk June 2008

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Mount Royal President Dave Marshall refers to Convocation as “the best day of the year.” But how did this ceremony come to be?

Convocation:  Convocation is Latin for “calling together” and refers to a group of people formally assembled for a special purpose.

Convocation is a-changin'

For the first time since 2000, Mount Royal will hold two Convocation ceremonies: one in June and one in November.

Approximately 450 graduates will attend the first Convocation today (June 6). The second Convocation on Nov. 7 will be significantly larger, because it will include students who have completed the Directed Field Studies component of their programs over the summer.

The November ceremony will also include students from the Faculty of Continuing Education and Extension.

Another change to Convocation is happening behind the scenes, because Mount Royal’s Academic Council is now responsible for approving each student’s request for graduation.

Associate Vice-President of Enrolment Management Susan Gottheil says this change is part of Mount Royal’s aspiration to become a university-level institution.

“Universities do have their senates or academic councils fulfill that duty,” she says.

But both Convocation ceremonies will also include an element that reflects why learning at Mount Royal is so special.

“Mount Royal invites all faculty who have been involved in each student’s personal academic success to sit on the stage during Convocation,” Gottheil says. “This is unique in my experience. The fact that we invite the whole faculty to celebrate the achievement of every student is evidence of the close personal relationships that are established within our community.”

It also means this year’s Convocation celebrations will feature a bigger stage than ever - one that can seat more than 300 faculty members.

- Jay Decore

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The wearing of gowns dates back to the 12th and 13th centuries. Universities lacked buildings of their own when they were first established and thus studies were conducted at nearby churches. Historians believe that academic dress originated when scholars, who were largely clerics or aspiring clerics in the church themselves, wore long robes and hoods to keep warm in these unheated buildings.

You may notice faculty members wearing gowns in different colours. This is because they wear the gown of the university where they graduated. Mount Royal graduates wear blue robes.

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Mount Royal students crossing the stage will be wearing a gown with different coloured hoods which distinguish which faculty they are graduating from. Historically, the hood was a functional garment, used as protection from the weather. Currently the colour and shape of a hood is used to distinguish the faculty of the wearer.

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There is some debate as to the origins of the cap worn at graduation. The square cap dates back to the 16th century and some say it’s shape was inspired by books. Caps should be worn parallel to the ground and should not be tipped back.

This year, grads should the ceremony with their tassels hung on the right hand side of their caps. A mass tassel flip will take place at the end of the ceremony to mark their official graduation.

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