Commencement 2023 will be held in person on Wednesday, May 24 (Class Day) and Thursday, May 25 (Commencement Ceremonies). We look forward to celebrating our graduating students along with family and friends. Please find information about our Commencement celebrations and helpful logistics below.

Overview

Wednesday, May 24, Class Day:

  • Class Photos and ceremony rehearsals (for graduates)
  • GSD Awards Ceremony and Class Day Address by Kimberly Dowdell
  • 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, 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. Graduates received information on registering for tickets over the graduating students email list.

We do not require advance registration or tickets for events on Class Day.

Live webcasts and language options

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 multiple languages. These can be viewed on cell phones by those attending in person, as well as being available for remote viewers of the livestreams. Languages will include Chinese – Traditional, Chinese – Simplified, Greek, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Persian, and Spanish; additional languages may be added with advance request.

Guest access to the Harvard wireless internet network can be accessed at the guest wifi information page.

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 webcasts with captioning, including translations, will be available to view on personal devices.
  • 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 modified arrangements for guests who are elderly, disabled, attending with babies, or have other specific access needs to fully participate in the events. Guests who need modified arrangements should discuss their needs with their graduate. The GSD’s Commencement team also coordinates any accessibility arrangements needed for our graduates or their guests at the Harvard Yard ceremony on the morning of May 25.

Some of the accessibility arrangements for GSD events that are available on advance request can include:

  • Reserved accessible seating for candidates or guests (location determined by the individual’s needs)
  • Accessible parking
  • American Sign Language interpreters
  • Assisted Listening Devices (ALDs)
  • Modified format programs (such as large print or pdf)
  • Sighted guide or escort to reserved accessible seating

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 places to stay 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 many of these events are restricted to ticketed or pre-registered guests. (Information about ticketing is at the top of this page.)

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
  • 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm: Select GSD publications available for purchase in Druker Design Gallery (Gund Hall lobby)
  • 3:30 pm: GSD Awards Ceremony and Class Day Address by Kimberly Dowdell; 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
    • Guests should plan time to stand on line and to have all bags searched; view the Yard bag policy (scroll down)
    • Strollers are not allowed into Tercentenary Theatre proper but are allowed in video-screen viewing location in Old Yard
  • 7:00 am: Continental breakfast available at Gund Hall for graduates and guests
  • 7:00 am: Graduates receive Harvard Yard credentials and line up for procession to morning ceremony
  • 7:20 am: Graduates process to Harvard Yard
  • 9:30 am: Commencement Morning Ceremony begins
  • 11:00 am: Gund Hall back yard tent opens to ticketed guests for GSD Diploma Ceremony
  • Note that all times after this are dependent on exact end time of Harvard Yard Commencement Morning Ceremony
  • Approximately 12:15 pm: Commencement Morning Ceremony ends
  • Approximately 12:30 pm: Gund Hall back yard opens to standing-room guests without tickets for GSD Diploma Ceremony
  • Approximately 12:45pm: GSD Diploma Ceremony; Gund Hall back yard tent
  • Approximately 2:30 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 was April 8, 2023. Graduates who did not order regalia in time should plan to go to the Harvard Coop when they open for regalia pick-up on May 18. The Coop generally has some extras available in May at a somewhat higher charge, but cannot guarantee your exact size, and regalia extras will be first come first served, so we recommend going early.

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).

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.

A workshop for prospective orators was held on February 23, and the deadline to apply was March 30, 2023. Graduating students interested in applying to deliver the graduate student address will find information on the university Commencement website.

 

Affinity Graduation Ceremonies

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

Affinity celebrations are open to all Harvard graduates who pre-register to attend. The celebrations include keynote speakers, performances, and cultural celebrations and graduates receive a regalia accessory or commemorative gift created for their affinity group. The celebrations are generally held on the Monday and Tuesday of Commencement Week.

This year’s events will include:

  • Affinity Celebration Honoring First Gen Next Gen Graduates
  • Affinity Celebration Honoring Asian, Asian American, Pacific Islander, Desi-American Graduates
  • Affinity Celebration Honoring Arab Graduates (hosted by the Harvard Arab Student Association)
  • Affinity Celebration Honoring Black Graduates
  • Lavender Celebration Honoring LGBTQ+ Graduates
  • Affinity Celebration Honoring Latinx Graduates
  • Affinity Celebration Honoring Indigenous Graduates (hosted by the Harvard University Native American Program)
  • Affinity Celebration Honoring Persons with Disabilities

For more information including schedule details, and to register to participate as a graduating student, please see the university page on Affinity Graduation Ceremonies. This year’s deadline to register to participate as a graduating student was April 24, 2023.

Questions?

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