When Sonoma State University graduates take part in commencement ceremonies this weekend, they'll be making campus history on several noteworthy fronts. For starters, with 2,651 students eligible to walk and receive their diplomas, this will be the largest graduating class in the university's 56-year history.
Interim Provost Jeri Echeverria said the CSU Graduation Initiative 2025, which has strengthened academic advising, added classroom capacity and supported other student success measures, has added as many as 180 students to this year's graduating class.
Also, commencement has been expanded this year to two days and will be held for the first time at Weill Hall in the Green Music Center (GMC). Historically, Sonoma State's Commencement ceremonies were held outdoors with temporary bleacher-style seating. There was one ceremony in the morning and one in the afternoon. More than 2,000 students total participated in both ceremonies last year, and the university saw about 10,000 visitors throughout the day.
This year, six individual school Commencement ceremonies are being held for both undergraduate and graduate students. Students will be graduating with other students in their academic departments and schools.
"We are very excited to be conducting school-by-school commencement ceremonies for the first time in Sonoma State history," Interim Provost Echeverria said. "This will provide greater recognition for each of our schools and their graduates and each person in the audience will have a better and closer view of the graduates than ever before."
Sonoma State President Judy K. Sakaki moved to transfer graduation ceremonies to the GMC as part of her ongoing efforts to "reach wide" and utilize the world-class performing arts venue for more student and community events.
"Seeing our graduates walk across the stage to receive their degrees is a proud moment for not only our students, their families and friends, but also for our faculty and staff," said President Sakaki. "It's a joyous occasion for everyone, and our pride only grows when our graduates step out in the world beyond campus to follow their dreams and make a difference in the region, the state and country."
In addition to the graduates who will be recognized at the various ceremonies, the University is awarding honorary degrees to two distinguished and generous philanthropists who've done so much for Sonoma State, its students and for young people in the North Bay region.
On Saturday, at the 9 a.m. Commencement ceremony for graduates from the School of Business and Economics, William "Willie" Tamayo will receive his honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. Tamayo, whose family founded Santa Rosa's La Tortilla Factory, is being recognized for his long history of helping first-generation college students realize their dreams for an education by funding scholarships and other programs to help them succeed.
The following day, at the 5 p.m. ceremony for graduates from the School of Education, Constance "Connie" Codding will receive her honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. Codding is being recognized for her efforts supporting the prevention of substance abuse, physical abuse, and teenage pregnancy for youth in the region, and for her support of other programs encouraging young people to live healthy, physically active lives.