Commencement 2023 will be held in person on Wednesday, May 24 (Class Day) and Thursday, May 25 (Commencement Ceremonies).

Overview

Wednesday, May 24, Class Day:

  • Class Photos and ceremony rehearsal for graduates
  • GSD Awards Ceremony and Class Day Address
  • Reception for graduates and guests

Thursday, May 25, Commencement Day:

  • Harvard Yard university-wide ceremony
  • GSD Diploma Ceremony
  • Lunch for graduates and guests

COVID-19

COVID-19 Protocols

By registering to participate in Commencement, all graduates and their guests agree to abide by all state, local, Harvard University, and Harvard GSD COVID-19 guidelines and protocols that may be in place at the time you come to campus. The University will continue to actively monitor public health conditions and communicate any expectations and guidelines to graduates and guests participating in Commencement.

As always, full vaccination and updated booster status is strongly encouraged.

Information for Guests

Guest tickets

As usual, we expect that GSD graduates will each receive up to two guest tickets to the Harvard yard morning ceremony, and up to three guest tickets to the GSD diploma ceremony. We will also maintain a wait list for both of these Commencement Day ceremonies. Additional options will include live webcasts in Gund Hall during both events, and standing-room-only access to the GSD diploma ceremony. Lunch for graduates and guests following the GSD diploma ceremony will require pre-registration.

At present, we do not anticipate requiring advance registration or tickets for events on Class Day.

Live webcasts

Key events, including the GSD’s Diploma Ceremony, the GSD’s Awards Ceremony and Class Day Address, and the Harvard Yard university-wide ceremony, will also be available by live public webcast for anyone unable to attend in person.

The GSD’s webcasts will include live English captions and simultaneous automated translated captions will be available on separate links in Chinese – Traditional, Chinese – Simplified, Greek, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Persian, and Spanish. These can be viewed on cell phones by those attending in person,  as well as being available for remote viewers of the livestreams.

Accessibility

The GSD’s Class Day and Commencement ceremonies will be held in the Gund back yard (Gund Garden).

  • The ceremonies will take place outdoors, primarily on grassy terrain, under the cover of a tent. 
  • Guest seating is general admission, aside from seats reserved for those with accessibility needs.  
  • Ceremony speakers will use microphones and speak from a podium.  
  • Live captioning will be available to view on personal devices. See above section for details.
  • Restrooms are available inside Gund Hall prior to tent entry, and within the ticketed tent area in the form of portable bathrooms, including a wheelchair accessible unit.  

Graduates will have the opportunity to request accommodations for guests with disabilities or other needs requiring accommodation to participate fully in the celebrations. The GSD’s Commencement team also coordinates any accommodations needed for our graduates or their guests at the Harvard Yard ceremony on the morning of May 25.

Some of the accommodations that are available on advance request can include:

  • Accessible seating for candidates or guests
  • Accommodations for d/Deaf or hard of hearing individuals
  • American Sign Language interpreters
  • Assisted Listening Devices (ALDs)
  • Accessible parking
  • Accommodations for people with visual impairments

Lodging options

Hotels and bed-and-breakfasts in the Cambridge area will become fully booked well in advance of Commencement. Because there are many other colleges and universities in the Greater Boston area with their own graduation festivities at the same time of year, it can become challenging to locate accommodations as the date gets closer. We recommend making reservations for guest lodging as soon as possible. If possible, we advise making reservations that can be cancelled later on, when booking early.

Check not only hotels right in Harvard Square (which may already be booked or have high prices due to the high demand) but also surrounding locations. Guests may want to consider hotels that are located on the MBTA public transit system, which opens up areas of Boston and other nearby communities, such as Somerville, Medford, Arlington, and Watertown. Harvard is easily accessible on the MBTA red line subway and by several major bus routes. Public transportation options also include various taxicab and ride-share services.

The university Commencement office has created a list of some nearby hotels, which may be helpful in your planning.

Information for Graduates

Detailed schedule

The anticipated detailed schedule for Class Day and Commencement is below. Please note that it is possible some of these schedule details will change. Confirmed schedules will be updated here and shared with graduates and guests well in advance of Commencement.

Please note that many of these events will be restricted to ticketed or pre-registered guests.

Wednesday, May 24, Class Day:

  • 10:00 am – 2:00 pm: Class photos and ceremony rehearsal for graduates, by department/program:
    • 10:00 am: Architecture
    • 10:45 am: Landscape Architecture
    • 11:30 am: Urban Planning and Design
    • 12:15 pm: MDes
    • 12:45 pm: MDE, DDes
  • 3:30 pm: GSD Awards Ceremony and Class Day Address; Gund Hall back yard tent (seating opens at 3:00)
  • 5:00 pm: Reception for graduates and their guests; Gund Hall

Thursday, May 25, Commencement Day:

  • 6:45 am: Harvard Yard gates open to ticketed guests. Guests are requested to be seated by 8:15 am. Plan time to stand on line and to have your bags searched; view the Yard bag policy (scroll down). Also note that strollers will not be allowed into Tercentenary Theatre proper.
  • 7:00 am: Continental breakfast available at GSD for graduates and guests; Gund Hall
  • 7:30 am: Graduates line up outside Gund and (at about 7:45 am) process to Harvard Yard
  • 8:50 am: Academic Procession into Tercentenary Theatre
  • 9:30 am: Commencement Morning Ceremony begins
  • 10:30am: Gund Hall back yard tent opens to ticketed guests for GSD Diploma Ceremony
  • approximately 12 noon: Commencement Morning Ceremony ends
  • Approximately 12:15pm: GSD Diploma Ceremony (follows Harvard Yard ceremony); Gund Hall back yard tent
  • Approximately 1:30 pm: GSD lunch for graduates and guests (immediately follows GSD Diploma Ceremony); Gund Hall

Visa support letters for international guests

If your guest(s) require a visa support letter in order to travel to Cambridge to participate in Commencement 2023, please use our visa support letter request form. The GSD can provide an official letter to the US consulate in your guest’s home country, officially supporting the visa application.

Please note that a visa support letter from the GSD is not an official letter of invitation, and it does not guarantee a guest a ticket to attend any specific ceremonies or events. The GSD cannot provide formal graduation announcement letters or invitations.

Regalia

Harvard requires all graduates to wear official regalia (cap and gown) in order to participate in Commencement ceremonies. The firm deadline to order regalia will be in early April. Graduates are strongly urged to order regalia in advance unless they are completely certain they will not attend Commencement, and to do so as early as possible. If you are no longer graduating or attending Commencement this year, regalia order cancellations will receive a full refund up until the day before Commencement (May 24).

Graduates will receive more information about ordering regalia in Spring 2023.

Student Orations Competition

One of the oldest traditions of the Morning Exercises of Commencement is the Orations Competition in which three students chosen by a panel of judges deliver an address from memory. Each year, one of these three students is a representative of one of Harvard’s graduate and professional schools. Graduating students interested in applying to delivery the graduate student address will find information on the university Commencement website.

Affinity Graduation Ceremonies

Affinity graduation ceremonies are student-led, staff supported events that aim to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of graduates from historically marginalized and underrepresented communities. These events provide an opportunity for graduates to honor those who have helped them achieve their milestone while centering their cultural traditions and values.

Affinity ceremonies held in the past have included:

  • AAPI/APIDA Graduation
  • Black Graduation
  • Latinx Graduation
  • Lavender Graduation
  • Next Gen (FGLI+) Graduation, and
  • Harvard University Native American Program (HUNAP) Indigenous Graduation.

For more information, please see the university page on Affinity Graduation Ceremonies.

Questions?

For further questions about Commencement, please contact commencement@gsd.harvard.edu.