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William and Mary Traditions

Convocation

Celebrated on the first day of classes, convocation marks the start of a new academic year where students, staff, and faculty gather at the Wren Building to welcome incoming students.  After the Opening Convocation Ceremony, new students are led by the President of the College through the Wren Building and onto campus, signifying their entrance to the college.  Current students, as well as faculty and staff, line up outside to welcome these students into the College.  The event is followed by a campus-wide picnic and entertainment.

Candlelight Ceremony & Commencement

Held the night before graduation, all seniors gather together in the Wren Yard.  The ceremony showcases three speakers (one faculty member, one administrator, and one senior student) chosen by the senior student body.  While singing the alma mater, the light from a Wren Candle is then passed from student to student.

Commencement may refer to the weekend-long series of events that celebrate the graduating class.  Commencement includes the moment when the senior student body (and other graduates) walk back through the Wren Building (towards Historical Williamsburg), signifying their graduation from the College.

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Raft Debate

The annual Raft Debate, held in the fall each year, features four faculty members of the College representing diverse disciplines, including the Humanities, Social Science, and the Natural / Computational Sciences. These faculty members must then imagine themselves stranded on a desert island, with only a one-person life raft available for escape.  The audience then picks (by volume of applause) which faculty member should survive for the sake of humanity!  On rare occasion, you may find the Devil’s Advocate advising the audience that no academic discipline is worth saving…

Yule Log

Just before the beginning of Winter Break, students gather in the Wren Courtyard for this festive tradition.  Student speakers recognize international holiday traditions, student groups provide live music, and the President of the College reads Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas while dressed as Santa Clause (always a crowd favorite!).  The night ends with students entering the Great Hall of the Wren Building to toss springs of holly into the Yule Log fire for good luck.

Charter Day

In 1693, King William III and Queen Mary II granted William and Mary’s Royal Charter.  The College celebrates this each year in February with distinguished speakers, distributing honorary degrees and awards, and a Charter Day concert.

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