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A new era begins at the University of Alaska Southeast today.
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For the first time, the UAS graduation ceremony will be held at the Juneau campus. The commencement ceremony begins at 2 p.m. in the gymnasium of the Charles Gamble Jr.-Donald Sperl Joint Use Facility.
"It feels real good to have graduation here," said Chancellor John Pugh. "I think it will change what students do with their parents, with their families."
The ceremony has historically been downtown at Centennial Hall, 11 miles from the Auke Lake campus.
"When you're at the Centennial Hall - not that it wasn't a good venue - it just didn't connect you with the university," Pugh said. "Now we'll be connected, so it's great to have it here on campus."
The $16.3 million building, which houses the UAS Student Recreation Center and the National Guard Readiness Center, opened for the fall semester.
William Andrews, student body vice president and president-elect, said having the ceremony at the university will help bring the students and faculty together.
"The ceremony is going to be right there on the campus," he said. "I think it's a good opportunity to deepen the culture at the university, instead of taking it out of context and bringing it all the way downtown."
University of Alaska Southeast graduates
Includes Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan campuses
2001-2002: 216. 2002-2003: 228 2003-2004: 259 2004-2005: 252 2005-2006: 371* *Anticipated number
Phil Paramore, the site's recreation manager, said having the ceremony on campus will allow more members of the community to see the new center.
"It ties the community in with the university in a way that we haven't been able to do before," he said. "It kind of showcases this new facility, which is really nice."
Paramore said setting up for the event has gone smoothly because of the planning by the chancellor's office, and also because he worked as the events supervisor at Centennial Hall for the past nine years.
"I set up for this event at Centennial Hall many, many times, so I'm intimately familiar with how everything works."
Pugh said there are some minor additional charges for having the graduation on campus, but it is about the same. The university has borrowed the stage from Centennial Hall.
"Them letting us use the stage was huge," Paramore said. "It really makes it possible for us to have graduation here this year."
Pugh said another reason this graduation will be special is that the commencement will be broadcast on the university's television station. He said families of graduates in outlying communities who could not make the trip to Juneau can watch the ceremony from their homes.
Other technology will include a large projection screen that will display images of art of Skip Wallen, the featured speaker, who will receive an honorary doctorate.
Pugh said the day really comes down to honoring the success of the students.
"This is going to be the largest (UAS) graduating class ever," he said. "I said that last year but I get to say that again this year. We're closing in on 300 graduates this year from summer through fall and spring."
Pugh said a number of students will get student awards, but each one of them has a story of success.
"What has been so exciting for me is to see some of the programs that we've started over the last four or five years, we now have graduates in them," he said.