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UT’s undergraduate commencement and graduate hooding ceremonies will be held December 13 and 14.

Graduate hooding will be held at 4:30 p.m. on December 13 and undergraduate commencement will be held at 9 a.m. on December 14, both in Thompson-Boling Arena.

The university will award 1,864 undergraduate degrees, 1,133 graduate degrees and certificates, and two law degrees to students who completed their studies in the summer or fall. ROTC cadets also will be commissioned during the undergraduate ceremony.

For more information about the ceremonies, visit the commencement website.

Undergraduate ceremony

Governor Bill Haslam will address students during the undergraduate commencement ceremony on December 14.

Governor Bill Haslam
Governor Bill Haslam

Haslam has served two terms as Tennessee’s governor. He was elected in 2010 and won re-election in 2014 with the largest victory in modern Tennessee history.

In 2013, Haslam launched the Drive to 55 initiative to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or credential to 55 percent by 2025. First-time freshman enrollment has increased 30 percent at community colleges and 32 percent at technical colleges, and the college-going rate in Tennessee increased to a high of 62.5 percent in 2015.

High school graduation rates are at an all-time high. The Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect programs were launched under the Drive to 55 initiative, making Tennessee the first state to offer high school graduates and adults two years of community or technical college free of tuition and mandatory fees.

Since Haslam took office in 2011, about 450,000 net new private sector jobs have been created in Tennessee. Last year, the state’s unemployment rate was the lowest in state history, and it has remained close to that record-low rate.

The governor worked with the Tennessee General Assembly in 2017 to pass the largest tax cut in Tennessee history. He and his administration have cut more than $575 million in recurring spending, shrunk state government by 7 percent, balanced the budget every year, ensured that Tennessee has the lowest debt in the country, and more than tripled the state’s savings account. For only the second time in state history, Tennessee has been awarded a AAA bond rating.

Before serving as governor, Haslam served two terms as mayor of Knoxville. He and his wife, Crissy, a Memphis native who earned her bachelor’s degree from UT in 1985, have been married for 37 years. They have three children and eight grandchildren.

Graduate Hooding

Suresh Poudel, a doctoral candidate, will speak at graduate hooding on December 13.

Suresh Poudel
Suresh Poudel

Born in a rural region of Nepal’s Kaski District, Poudel spent his youth living in extreme poverty. Despite that, he persevered and made his way to college. While earning his undergraduate degree at Kathmandu University, Poudel was honored for having the highest cumulative grade-point average in the entire university and its affiliated colleges.

After graduating, Poudel taught for two years in the Department of Biotechnology at Kathmandu University. He then received the prestigious Quota scholarship to pursue a master’s degree at Norwegian University of Science and Technology. After completing that degree, he returned to Kathmandu University to work as a lecturer in the Department of Biotechnology. Two years later, he was accepted into UT’s Genome Science and Technology program.

While pursuing his PhD, Poudel has worked in Robert L. Hettich’s lab at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. His research focuses on describing microbial proteins using mass spectrometry techniques and computational tools in order to understand the metabolism within the microbe. He’s been the lead author on two publications in the journal Biotechnology for Biofuels, and he’s co-authored multiple papers.

Poudel has been active in UT’s Nepali Students Association and plays several sports, including soccer, cricket, volleyball, and badminton. His wife, Pragya, is pursuing a doctoral degree in public health at UT.

Parking and Security

Graduates and their guests may park free in university student parking areas throughout campus but should avoid parking in staff parking areas.

The arena’s large-event security protocol will be enforced at both ceremonies. Guests may enter the arena with one clear plastic bag no larger than 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches.

Walk-through metal detectorswill be in place and operational at all arena entrances. Please allow additional time for entry.

Smoking, including e-cigarettes, is prohibited in and on all university property, including in private vehicles parked or operated on university property.

For more information on what items are allowed and prohibited in the arena as well as the security policy, visit the commencement website or contact the Thompson-Boling Arena management office at 865-974-0953.

News Sentinel: UT’s Commencement: A Cancer Patient Honored, a Military Homecoming, and a Posthumous Degree (also ran in the Tennessean)
News Sentinel: Military Homecoming: University of Tennessee Grad Surprised with Brother’s Return from Air Force (also ran in the Tennessean)
News Sentinel: University of Tennessee Commencement Ceremony (photo gallery)
WVLT: Surprise Hospital Graduation for UT Student
WBIR: Brother in Air Force Surprises Sister Graduating from UT
WATE: UT Graduate Reunites With Her Soldier Brother At Commencement Ceremony
WATE: UT Grad Battling Cancer Gets Commencement Surprise
WATE: Mom Accepts UT Diploma For Son Who Died During Boxing Match


Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,