Summer commencement features earth-friendly regalia

Nicole Maass of Omaha, is jubilant after receiving her diploma during commencement exercises in May. Also pictured are summer commencement speakers (from top) John Rosenow and John Hibbing.
Nicole Maass of Omaha, is jubilant after receiving her diploma during commencement exercises in May. Also pictured are summer commencement speakers (from top) John Rosenow and John Hibbing.

UNL's summer graduates will wear "green" at commencement exercises Aug. 12 and 13 at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.

Not the color green — the environmental green. Sustainable academic regalia will be used for the first time. The color of the gowns will still be the traditional academic black.

The new Jostens Elements Collection fabric for the traditional commencement gown was developed using 100 percent acetate material, proven to decompose in soil in one year. The gowns are made from sustainably harvested wood pulp, and zippers are made from 100-percent recycled PET. Earth-friendly packaging contains a biofilm material that facilitates the decomposition process of the cap and gown bag.

The cost of the green regalia is slightly higher than standard regalia ($14 more), said Jennifer Verhein, assistant director of Registration and Records, who oversees commencement. But the trend is to sustainability, and students, faculty and administrators have been asking for earth-friendly options.

The debut of the green regalia coincides with an Earth-friendly-themed commencement, to include speaker John Rosenow, founder and chief executive officer of the Arbor Day Foundation. Stage decorations at the ceremonies will be selected by UNL Landscape Services, who will plant them on campus afterward.

"Our plan is for stage greenery for all future August commencement ceremonies to be selected by Landscape Architecture and incorporated into the Graduation Garden or other campus landscaping," Verhein said.

The ceremonies include one for postgraduate degrees at 3 p.m. Aug. 12 and one for baccalaureate degrees at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 13. Approximately 800 students will receive diplomas, some 430 for master's, doctoral and law degrees and about 370 for baccalaureate degrees.

John Hibbing, Foundation Regents University Professor of Political Science at UNL, will give the address, titled "The Symbiotic Relationship of Graduate Students and Faculty," at the postgraduate ceremony. Rosenow will give the address, titled "Two Questions," at the baccalaureate ceremony. Ellen Weissinger, senior vice chancellor for academic affairs, will preside over both exercises.

Rosenow earned his bachelor's degree in agricultural engineering from UNL in 1971. That year, as the 1972 Arbor Day centennial approached, he started the Arbor Day Foundation, which now has 1 million members throughout America. Through the years members have helped the foundation plant some 200 million trees, including more than 25 million trees in 95 national and state forests that have been damaged by disease and fire.

Tree City USA, launched by the Arbor Day Foundation in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service and National Association of State Foresters, fosters enhanced community forestry programs in towns and cities across America. There are 3,424 communities that meet the Tree City USA standards, from Boston to San Jose, with 106 in Nebraska. The Foundation's new Tree Campus USA program, which promotes green and sustainable campuses and student tree-planting, includes UNL.

Hibbing was born and raised on a farm in northwest Iowa. He earned his undergraduate degree from Dana College in Blair, and his graduate degrees from the University of Iowa. He has taught in the Department of Political Science at UNL since 1981. He also has held visiting appointments as a NATO Fellow in Science in the United Kingdom, as a Distinguished Research Scholar in Hungary, as a Senior Fulbright Fellow in Spain, as a Velux Senior Research Fellow in Denmark, and as a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Sage Center for the Study of the Mind at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

He is the author or co-author of six books, and scores of articles; he has received nine National Science Foundation grants. His recent research on the connection of biological variables to political attitudes has been featured in hundreds of media reports from Warsaw to Buenos Aires and from Fox News to "The Daily Show." He has been inducted into the Dana College Athletic Hall of Fame and received the University of Nebraska Excellence in Graduate Education Award.

Handicap-accessible shuttle buses will be available for easy access to the Devaney Center entrance and handicap permit parking will be available on the south side of the building in Lot 52.

All ceremonies are free and open to the public, and tickets are not required. Graduate and undergraduate ceremonies will be Web-streamed live from the Devaney Center through a link at the UNL website,

A drop-off area for graduates and mobility-restricted guests will be available on the south side of the Devaney Center. Closed captioning for hearing-impaired individuals will be provided through the HuskerVision screens. Reserved seats for guests who are ambulatory restricted will be available next to the stage on the arena floor (for the Aug. 13 ceremony, a reserved area will also be available in Section B-11, accessible from the upper concourse). Guests in wheelchairs will be seated on the northeast corner of the arena floor.

Because of security concerns, parcels, handbags and camera bags will be subject to search.

- Tom Simons, University Communications