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Organizer of Kent State Commencement Ceremonies Plans Own Commencement

Posted June 10, 2013 | Foluke Omosun
enter photo description
Lashonda Taylor, Kent State's manager
for university ceremonies and academic
events, helped to organize the Spring
2013 Commencement and also graduated with
a degree in communication studies.

Not too many people have the opportunity to organize their own university Commencement ceremony and participate in it as a graduating student, but Lashonda Taylor did just that at Kent State University. Taylor, manager for university ceremonies and academic events at Kent State, has been involved in planning 35 Commencement ceremonies at the university over the years.

This past May, Taylor walked the stage at the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication studies with a focus on applied communication. She was one of more than 4,450 students across the university’s eight-campus system to graduate this spring.

What was it like planning her own Commencement ceremony?

“I was definitely more nervous this time around, especially because my family and friends were attending,” Taylor says. “Organizing Commencement has made a way for me to establish relationships with students and their families, faculty and staff members, and university executives and administrators.”

Her favorite memory from her graduation ceremony was seeing her family share in her excitement.

“I loved experiencing how excited my husband and kids were to see me in my cap and gown,” she says. “I am a first-generation college graduate, so this was very important not only for me, but also for my family.”

After planning so many Commencement ceremonies, Taylor still thinks each event is unique.

“If you ask the many people whom I work with, they will tell you that no Commencement is the same. I am always looking for ways to improve the ceremony; so with each ceremony, there is always a slight change,” she says.

Asked what it takes to plan a successful Commencement ceremony, Taylor says, “Good people.”

“There is no way that this event could appear to be perfect without the people who dedicate their efforts toward Commencement,” she adds. “Without my support staff, the many university departments, including TeleProductions, Educational Technology Design and Outreach, moving services, maintenance, University Communications and Marketing, and more, the Commencement committee and student volunteers, this event would not be a success. Of course there are timelines that must be met, but the most integral piece is the people.”

Taylor has witnessed significant changes to Commencement ceremonies in her time as chief event planner at Kent State.

“Improvements to Commencement happen each semester; from little changes, such as adding a formal recessional for students, to large-scale improvements, such as implementing a mandatory RSVP and ticketing system,” she says.

She credits the availability of online courses for her ability to earn her degree within a short time frame of about three years.

“Without online classes, I would not have been able to graduate so soon,” she says. “Taking courses online allowed me to listen to lectures and study around my schedule, which was normally in the evenings. The courses I have taken have improved my verbal and written communication skills, which are needed in this role on a day-to-day basis.”