Virginia Tech staff checks diplomas


A backstage look at authenticating degrees, one by one

How Tech Ticks


A backstage look at authenticating degrees, one by one

by Alison Matthiessen '05, '16

Photos by Michael Folta

A freshly printed diploma represents the culmination of precise coordination, technical support, and long hours of work — and not just for the graduate.

Leading up to commencement each year, the Office of the University Registrar prepares thousands of diplomas. According to Clyde Cridlin, associate registrar for academic programs and compliance, the timeline is as follows:

  • Virginia Tech graduate Richard "Trey" Good and his family

    August 2014

    Students apply for a degree at the beginning of their junior year. One such student was Richard "Trey" Good, of North Dinwiddie, Virginia, who was pursuing a bachelor's degree in packaging systems and designs.

    "The diversity of the program drew me to it," said Good, a Presidential Scholarship Initiative recipient, of his major. "We have graduates who go on to do engineering roles, sales, design, marketing. It made a lot of sense to me. I could go in any direction; there aren't many products you can think of that are not packaged. I could go into any industry." The job opportunities are there with few graduates coming out into the field with this major." Degree in hand, Goode is now an associate packaging engineer with Newell Rubbermaid.

  • Virginia Tech student at registrar's office

    January 2016

    Throughout the semester, the registrar's office monitors whether students who intend to graduate in May are on track.

  • Virginia Tech student with commencement program

    March 2

    Students must apply for spring graduation by March 2 in order to receive a diploma and be listed in the commencement program. Tech is one of the few large universities to hand out actual diplomas during commencement.

  • Virginia Tech faculty and students

    March 24-April 15

    The office finalizes commencement arrangements, such as designating college and department representatives for diploma distribution. After faculty members enter tentative grades, the office checks graduation statuses.

  • Virginia Tech diploma

    April 21

    The office receives 5,091 diplomas from an outside vendor.

  • Clyde Cridlin

    April 22-28

    Staff members — including Clyde Cridlin, associate registrar for academic programs and compliance — proofread diplomas, ordering corrected versions as necessary. The window to enter tentative grades is closed at midnight on April 27. The office conducts another clearance check.

  • Registrar's office employeed sorting diplomas

    May 9-13

    Each envelope is labeled with a student's name, major, and commencement year and term. Diplomas are sorted according to the commencement schedules. As additional degree clearances are performed, staff members adjust diplomas.

  • Office of the University Registrar employees

    May 13

    5 p.m. — As faculty submit grades, the office runs a final degree clearance. Staff members check for University Honors requirements and levels of distinction, such as cum laude. If spring grades change a level, the diploma is replaced with a letter promising an updated diploma by mail.

    Late into Friday night and early Saturday morning, the office conducts a final check, verifying the accuracy of each diploma and ensuring that each envelope is in the appropriate box.

  • Registrar Rick Sparks and Stephanie Hart, director of the College of Natural Resources and Environment's Advising Center

    Saturday, May 14

    Even though some ceremonies take place on Friday, diplomas can't be distributed until Saturday, regarded as the official commencement day by the university's accrediting bodies.

    6:30-8:30 a.m. — Registrar Rick Sparks begins distributing diplomas. Representatives, including Stephanie Hart, director of the College of Natural Resources and Environment's (CNRE) Advising Center, retrieve their boxes.

  • Virginia Tech graduate Trey Good receives his diploma

    Saturday, May 14

    8:30 a.m. — As other ceremonies are held across campus, CNRE Dean Paul Winistorfer congratulates Trey Good in the Moss Arts Center.

  • 2016 spring commencement!

Alison Matthiessen (communication '05, M.A. '16) is the communications coordinator in the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost.