Graduates: What to Know about WPU’s Baccalaureate Service

February 15, 2023

Every year William Peace University (WPU) holds its baccalaureate service the Friday before Commencement at Holy Trinity Anglican Church. What exactly is this service, and how does it differ from Commencement? 

What is Baccalaureate? 

A baccalaureate service is a religious service that occurs at many private universities. WPU’s baccalaureate service is a celebration that honors the graduating class, and begins with the procession of the degree candidates. 

The service itself is Christianity-based but is interdenominational and ecumenical. All graduates and families are invited to attend, but students must RSVP for the Baccalaureate

Speakers selected to speak at this event tend to be community leaders, faculty members, students, or local religious leaders. In addition, the service may have campus community members participate in various roles. Typically, the service focuses on reflection, like a farewell message to graduates.

The Hooding Ceremony

WPU’s Baccalaureate service features a hooding ceremony, which is unique. A hood is a piece of the WPU academic regalia that includes a gown, cap, and tassel. At many institutions, the hood is part of master’s or higher level regalia, but WPU chose to have it as part of our undergraduate regalia.  

During the hooding ceremony, a friend or family member will put the hood on the graduate. Students are encouraged to ask someone to be their hooder — someone who has been particularly helpful in their education journey. During the service, the student and the person selected to hood them will process in, sit together, and, at the designated time in the service, put the hood on the student. The hooding ceremony will happen at the beginning of the service. 

“We find that graduates love asking someone in their life to be their hooder,” said Dawn Dillon, who coordinates Baccalaureate each year. “It’s a special moment both for the graduate and a way to honor someone special. The entire baccalaureate service is a memorable and inspirational part of our commencement weekend.” 

Faculty members participate in the service and do not individually hood students. 

The service also features an inspirational message from a guest of the university (often a pastor or community leader) to the graduates, along with a musical performance by a WPU student.  

The first bachelor of art graduates in 1996 selected the current regalia. WPU’s hooding ceremony started in 2008.