More than 5,700 students will graduate with bachelor's degrees from the University of Arizona Friday, and the institution is bringing in more fanfare to celebrate the ceremony's return to Arizona Stadium.
For more than 40 years, graduations have been in McKale Center, but with the student population's continued expansion, officials decided to move to the more spacious football stadium, said Kasey Urquidez, associate vice president of student affairs.
"We needed to look at other options for where we did our commencement, because we were getting too big," Urquidez said. "We were graduating more and more students, which is a wonderful thing for the state of Arizona and the nation's economy, but we needed to have a space where we could allow every single family, friend participate."
A bigger graduating class is partly due increased enrollment and partly due to a new focus on ensuring students graduate.
“All three state institutions are working very, very hard to make sure that we are providing a very good education for our students, but are really focused on time to degree and helping them to move forward within that four year time frame," Urquidez said.
The university is also adding elements of celebration to commencement.
“It’ll be a very respectful and nice ceremony during the actual event, but very exciting before in the staging area with food trucks and nice things for students to be able to just interact with each other," Urquidez said.
UA hired a production company for entertainment, she said.
"At the end, there’ll be some surprises, and then also as part of the grand finale they'll get to have some fireworks and music that’s related to all the years they’ve been here."
Robert Moran, the CEO of Petsmart and a long-time UA supporter, will deliver the commencement address.