USM is splitting its commencement into two ceremonies this year as a result of the ongoing renovations at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
“We knew there was some chance the Civic Center would be available,” said Craig Hutchinson, chief student affairs officer at USM, but since the ongoing renovation schedule at the venue was tied to the Portland Pirates hockey season, it was difficult to know if he could count on the venue. The Civic Center has traditionally hosted USM commencement since it fits the space needs of a large graduation and has ample parking to support the large number of guests that attend.
“We didn’t know how good a season [the Pirates] were going to have,” said Hutchinson of the Pirates’ recent playoff success that ultimately would have left the venue available to use for USM commencement 2013 as renovations are planned to start once the hockey team’s season ends. Planning had to move forward despite the unknowns, though, and Hutchinson made the decision to have two ceremonies in Gorham’s Costello Sports Complex, which accommodates 4,800 people compared to the Civic Center’s 6,700 seats.
“The cost is actually going to be greater,” said Hutchinson. There are a few contributors to those higher costs, according to Hutchinson. The school is having to hire out for services to facilitate the graduation ceremonies that were included in the event fee they had paid to the Civic Center in past years. The duplication of services for each ceremony is also a big factor in the higher tab for graduation this year, as the school will be shuttling attendees back and forth from satellite parking lots to accommodate the huge influx of people generally associated with college commencement weekends. Hutchinson said the university will be using between six and eight busses to shuttle all the family and friends of USM’s class of 2013 between the event parking and the Costello Sports Complex.
Both commencements will have a student speaker in addition to the different keynote speakers at each ceremony. The morning session will feature Senator Susan Collins and sociology graduate Noah Hurowitz, and the afternoon session will feature graduate student Roya Hejabian and Dr. Mary Bitterman, president and director of the Bernard Osher Foundation.
Hutchinson said he expects a good celebration and a smooth execution. “By God, we’ll get ‘er done.”