Commencement Faculty & Staff Information

Academic Dress

Academic Dress

Academic costumes date back to the 11th and 12th centuries with the first organized institutions of learning in Europe. In 1895, the academic institutions in the United States adopted a code of academic dress that gave this country a beautiful and impressive method of signifying scholastic honors. With the exception of revisions in 1932 and 1959, the code has been virtually unchanged since its inception.

Image of Mace

MACE. Once a terrible instrument of medieval close combat, the mace has evolved into an ornamental, ceremonial staff borne at the head of processions marking the beginning of a convocation or commencement.

CAPS. The black mortarboard is most commonly used in the United States. The tassel, normally worn in the left front quadrant of the cap, is black, although it may be of the color appropriate to the subject of the degree. The tassel on the doctor’s cap is usually made of gold thread.

GOWNS. The bachelor’s gown has a long, pointed sleeve; the master’s gown has an oblong sleeve open at the wrist (or some older gowns may be open near the upper part of the arm); the doctor’s gown is fuller than the others with velvet panels full length on the front, and three velvet crossbars on each sleeve in black or in a color distinctive of the subject pertaining to the individual’s degree. The gowns are black except for the doctor’s, which may be a color representing the institution that awarded the degree. Graduating student athletes are wearing silver-and-blue cords over their gowns. A number of other cords recognizing student achievement and activities are also worn.

HOODS. Academic hoods signify the wearer has received a master’s, doctoral or other advanced degree.

The hood, draped over the shoulders and down the back, indicates both the institution granting the degree and the academic area of specialization.

The silk lining of the hood represents the color or colors of the institution from which the degree was received. The higher the degree, the more the lining is revealed.

The level of the degree is designated by the length of the hood and the width of the velvet edging. The master’s hood is three-and-one-half feet long, and the doctor’s is four feet long. (The shorter bachelor’s hood is not given at Nevada.)

The width of the velvet edging is three and five inches in width for the master’s and doctor’s degrees, respectively. The color of the velvet signifies the field of learning, such as orange for engineering, green for medicine and gold for science. For Ph.D. or Doctor of Philosophy degrees, the dark blue color represents mastery of the discipline of learning and scholarship in any field, and is not intended to necessarily represent the field of philosophy.

 PRESIDENT’S MEDALLION. Created to symbolize the Office of the President and cast in Nevada-mined silver, the three-inch President’s Medallion was first used at the inauguration of President Crowley in 1979. Among other design elements, it features a slightly recessed bowl, emblematic of the University’s role as a repository, and an unfolding page-like shape, symbolizing the growth of the University and, with it, the presidency.

The official academic costume code