Commencement Ceremony FAQ

Note: Spring FAQs will be published soon.

What is a virtual Commencement?

The College is partnering with a third-party company called MarchingOrder to create virtual graduate and undergraduate ceremonies that will include:

  • Brief, pre-recorded Commencement speeches broadcast in accessible video formats
  • Verbal announcements of each individual graduate’s name
  • Customizable slides featuring personal recognition, photos and messages from each graduate

The virtual ceremonies will be available beginning at 1 p.m. (U.S. Eastern Standard Time) on Friday, May 22, so that our graduates and their family members can participate from anywhere in the world. They will also be available for a full year for repeat viewing or for those who are not able to tune in when the event website goes live.

Learn more about the MarchingOrder virtual Commencement ceremony from this short video:



Will virtual Commencement replace the traditional on-campus ceremonies?

The virtual Commencement Ceremony WILL NOT REPLACE a May 2021 in-person Commencement celebration for our students who graduated or will graduate in August 2019, December 2019, January 2020, May 2020 and August 2020. We are organizing the virtual event as a way for our campus community to celebrate and reflect on the end of the 2019-20 academic year, even as we continue to live, work, teach and learn in accordance with social distancing guidelines.

Our number one priority is to provide our graduates and candidates with the opportunity to return to campus for a safe, in-person Commencement celebration next year to recognize their years of hard work and accomplishments in earning a college degree.

We will share additional details about a May 2021 in-person celebration at a later date.


Is the virtual Commencement a live event?

No, the virtual Commencement will consist of a series of pre-recorded videos of speeches and other ceremonial traditions, as well as customizable slides and pre-recorded name readings honoring each of our individual graduates.

These videos will be published on a special webpage at 1 p.m. on Friday, March 22, and they will remain available on that page for one year. Members of our community will be able to view the virtual Commencement videos and slide show as soon as they publish, or at their convenience thereafter for up to one year.


What do graduates and candidates need to do to participate?

Please keep an eye out for an email from with instructions for how to register with MarchingOrder.

  1. Name pronunciation: As part of our virtual Commencement Ceremony, MarchingOrder will hire professional voice recorders to pre-record the names of all of our participating graduates and candidates. The company will be reaching out to students soon to request information about how to pronounce your name. This is an optional step. Students can send pronunciation info in writing or as a voice recording. The deadline to send your name recording is April 29. Students who choose not to provide pronunciation information will still have their names read aloud during the virtual Commencement Ceremony; the College is not responsible for mispronunciations if students do not provide that information to MarchingOrder before the deadline.
  2. Portrait and personal message: Students will also have the opportunity to contribute a photo and personal quote to be included on a custom slide during the virtual ceremony. This is an exciting opportunity to be creative and add a personal touch to your virtual recognition. Please note that photos and quotes will be subject to review and may be excluded for inappropriate or offensive content. The deadline to submit your photo and your quote is May 9. If you miss this deadline, your slide will include your name, degree, major and academic honors.

Again, graduates will receive emails from MarchingOrder with requests for the name recordings and the photo and quote, so please keep an eye on your email in the coming days and weeks and respond quickly to ensure your inclusion in the virtual Commencement Ceremony.


Will other end-of-semester events be held virtually as well?

Yes, plans are currently underway to hold many of our end-of-year traditions in online formats. The May 22 virtual Commencement Ceremony will include both an Honors Program Graduation Ceremony and our Lavender Celebration acknowledging the contributions of LGBTQ+ identified students.

Other end-of-year events that will take place online include, but are not limited to:

  • The Student Research Symposium
  • The Engineering Design EXPO
  • Senior Toast

This list will be updated as additional event planning progresses and dates are confirmed.


Will we have a virtual Outstanding Graduate Ceremony this spring?

No, there will not be a virtual ceremony this semester, but the College will still recognize our Outstanding Graduates. Faculty will select students for this distinguished recognition as they have done in semesters past, and will send Outstanding Graduate certificates to selected students at their permanent address, along with a letter of congratulations.

The honorees’ names will also be published on the campus news website and social media accounts, and sent in a press release to students’ hometown newspapers via Merit, the College’s student achievement platform.


If there will not be an in-person Commencement in May 2020, how will I get my diploma?

Diplomas will be distributed directly to graduates once all course requirements are completed and Records & Registration clears each candidate for degree conferral.

Questions regarding diplomas should be directed to Records & Registration at


If I graduated in a previous year, but got permission from Records & Registration to participate in the May 2020 Commencement ceremony, can I still participate in the virtual ceremony?

Yes, all graduates and candidates who were approved to participate in the May 2020 Commencement ceremony are eligible to participate in the virtual celebration.


If I’m not able to attend the virtual Commencement Ceremony at 1 p.m. on May 22, can I still participate?

Yes! The virtual Commencement Ceremony will be available on a special website for one year, and can be viewed by students, family members, friends, loved ones, faculty, staff, alumni and community members at any time after the virtual event.

There are other ways to participate in our virtual Commencement, too! You can join the festivities on #NPSocial, share photos of how you’re celebrating, and follow along with peer students, faculty and friends of the College on all major social media platforms.

We will also publish photos, videos, news and Commencement speeches on the College’s news hub as soon as they are available.


I’d like to wear my cap and gown for the virtual Commencement Ceremony. Can I still place my order?

Unfortunately, our cap and gown provider, Herff Jones, is not able to guarantee delivery by May 9, the deadline for students to send photos to MarchingOrders for inclusion in the virtual Commencement ceremony.

Graduates and candidates can still purchase their cap and gown now through Thursday, April 30, to ensure delivery before the May 22 virtual Commencement Ceremony.

Place your order with Herff Jones using this link. All cap and gown orders will be shipped for home delivery, and shipping fees will apply.

Students who have already purchased their cap and gown for “Bookstore Pickup” should log onto and fill out the form to have the package sent directly to your home address. Herff Jones will ship your cap & gown free of charge since “Bookstore Pickup” is no longer an option, but students should complete the form as soon as possible to ensure timely deliver.



Can I still participate in the virtual Commencement if I do not submit a photo or message?

Yes, for those who choose not to add an optional photo or message, MarchingOrder will create slides with the student’s name, major, month and year of graduation and any academic honors. Additionally, their names will be recorded and their slides will be uploaded to the virtual ceremony webpage.


Will the virtual Commencement Ceremony be accessible and ADA compliant?

Yes, both the Data Collection Websites and the Virtual Ceremony Websites will be screen reader capable (VPAT and WCAG 2.1 Compliant).

MarchingOrder does not provide captioning for the videos that are included on the Virtual Ceremony Website. SUNY New Paltz will ensure that captioning is added to any videos.


How will my personal information be protected?

MarchingOrder follows security best practices on their data collection and virtual ceremony web portals. Students will have a secure site link emailed to their campus email account, and no one will be able to access their information without that link.


How will graduates access the virtual ceremony website?

Ceremony URLs and access instructions will be provided at a later date.


Senior Toast FAQ’s

Will I get a champagne flute?  

We will distribute flutes at the in-person event next spring.  For the virtual event, please provide your own beverage and glass to toast.  

Should I dress up?

Yes, get in the mood and dress to impress!  

How long will the ceremony be?

Approximately 30 minutes from start to finish.

Will it be recorded?

Yes, we will post the full recording after the event on social media and link it to the Senior Toast page.

What should I know about submitting a video or photo?

Hold your phone landscape mode, be creative with props and showing your SUNY New Paltz spirit, be well lit and don't record in the dark.  Please make sure your videos are in MP4 format.  Photos should be in JPG or PNG format.  Don't forget - landscape mode!!  Did you know you can record a zoom session with you and your closest friends to submit a video montage of your whole crew.  You can also shout out your fellow classmates or a person/program that made a difference in your college career!  Make it fun!