General Information

Below are frequently asked questions about Commencement. If you have other questions, please call the Office of College Communications at 507-222-4308 or e-mail

Where can we order graduation-related items?

Many items are available year-round from the Carleton Bookstore.  Graduation announcements are available here.  Other items, such as rings and diploma frames are available to order online here here.

Where does a senior get a cap and gown for Commencement?

Graduating Seniors can place an order for cap and gown, diploma frame, class ring, and personalized announcements online here. This site will remain open through Friday, April 3. Orders for cap and gown placed through the website will receive a $5 discount. Graduates will be able to pick up their order during Senior Showcase in Severance Great Hall on Wednesday, May 13 from 11am-6pm. Caps and gowns may also be purchased during Senior Showcase for $54.98.

These "EarthGrad" gowns are unique and the only one of its kind to be fully sustainable and certified as being manufactured from 100% recycled materials. The fabric has a luxurious, soft, woven feel with a matte finish. By choosing these gowns, Carleton College is having a positive impact on the environment by saving the equivalent of 74 bottles from the landfill; mitigating the effects of global warming by using fewer than 3.9 lbs of CO2 emissions or greenhouse gas; and saving the energy equivalent to 1.25 gallons of gas. This earth-friendly and environmentally conscious choice generates demand for recycled materials, creates jobs and reduces the amount of materials that go into landfills.

Caps and gowns become the property of the graduate and do not need to be returned following the Commencement ceremony.

How can items be shipped home?

Carleton Mail Services provides UPS, FedEx and USPS services from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Shipping services are also provided at Graphic Mailbox, located at 204 West 7th Street in the River Park Mall across from Wells Fargo Bank (phone 507-645-1610). Open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Open Commencement Day (Saturday, June 13) from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Graphic Mailbox has boxes and also provides packing services for students.

The UPS Store in Faribault (320 NW 4th Street, phone 507-332-6772) is also open Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

When should families plan to arrive in Northfield?

Activities for graduating seniors and their families take place throughout the day Friday, June 12, and the Commencement ceremony will be held on Saturday morning, June 15. Please review the Schedule of Events and determine the arrival that works best for you and your family.

Is transportation provided between the airport and campus?

Although Carleton College does not operate any transportation between the campus and the airport, visitors to campus may want to check out the Metro Express bus service or First Choice Shuttle.

Can family members stay overnight on campus?

Carleton College has a limited number of rooms available in the residence halls during Commencement Weekend for guests of graduating seniors. See Guest Housing for more details.

What motels and hotels are in the Northfield area?

We encourage you to make reservations for overnight accommodations as soon as possible. A list of Northfield Area Hotels and Motels is provided for your convenience.

Where is Commencement held?

Carleton's Commencement ceremony is held outdoors on the lawn west of Hulings Hall, rain or shine. Although there are several shade trees, some seating is in the direct sun. We advise you to bring water and to consider wearing a hat and sunglasses for your comfort.  Water bottles can be filled inside any campus building and water bottle refilling stations are located outside at both ends of the Bald Spot for your convenience.  The ceremony will also be shown on a large screen inside Skinner Chapel.  If dangerous weather conditions make it not possible to hold the ceremony outdoors, it will take place inside the Recreation Center.

Will tickets be needed for the ceremony?

Seating is available to accommodate all guests, whether outdoors or indoors. No tickets are required.

Where should families park vehicles?

Parking on campus is very limited, but there is plenty of street parking available south of the campus.

What time should families arrive for the Commencement ceremony?

You can arrive as early as you like. We ask that you be in your seats by 9:20 a.m. and that the aisles be kept open for the processional. We also ask that you keep the aisles open throughout the ceremony and take care to not block the view of other guests.

Out of respect for others, we ask that there be no artificial noise makers, air horns or megaphones used during the ceremony.

Can photographs be taken during the ceremony?

You may take photographs during the ceremony from your seat. In order to avoid obstructing the view of others, please do not approach the stage area or stand in the aisles.

For your convenience, Carleton College has arranged with GradImages® for a professional photographer to take a photo of each graduate receiving the diploma from President Poskanzer, a second posed photo after leaving the stage, and a third close up photo.

In order to be notified you when your images are available for viewing, GradImages sends both emails and mails paper proofs, along with optional text message notifications. Your information is never shared and privacy is guaranteed. Pre-register your information to make sure your contact information is up-to-date with GradImages, so they can provide your complimentary proofs as quickly as possible. There is never any obligation to order, and by pre-registering, you'll save 20% off an order of $50 or more for your participation. You may pre-register for your commencement proofs here.  Your proofs will be ready to view online here as early as 48-72 hours after the ceremony. 

Carleton does not benefit from this arrangement; it is provided as a service to graduates and their families. GradImages® guarantees complete satisfaction with your photograph package or you will receive a full refund.

If you have any questions regarding your photos, please contact GradImages Customer Service at 800-261-2576 or via email at

A member of my family has mobility impairment and requires special access for the ceremony. How may we arrange for this?

No advance arrangements are required. The parking lot east of Skinner Memorial Chapel on First Street will be reserved for dropping off people with mobility impairments and will have parking spaces for vehicles with handicap permits. A short distance down the sidewalk will be a seating section for those with special access needs (and members of their parties); wheelchairs and scooters can be parked in this area. Ushers will be available to assist.

A diagram of the ceremony site indicating the seating areas can be found here

How do we request a sign language interpreter?

If you require the services of a Sign Language Interpreter, please make advance arrangements with the Office of College Relations at 507-222-4308.

Where can snacks or other last-minute items be purchased on Saturday?

Sayles Café will be open from 8:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and the Bookstore will be open from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The bookstore carries batteries, sun block, sunglasses, umbrellas, and other last-minute supplies that may be needed.

In an effort to reduce waste, guests and students are encouraged to bring their own drinking container. Water filling stations are located near the ceremony site. 

Can I purchase flowers for my graduate?

The Mortar Board Honors Society will have bouquets of flowers for families to purchase to honor their graduates. There will be a table set up along the sidewalk on the south side of the seating area starting one hour before the ceremony and available throughout the morning for your convenience.

Who will be the speakers at this year's Commencement ceremony?

Following President Poskanzer’s opening remarks, two graduates will address the Class of 2020, families and friends, and faculty at this year’s Commencement ceremony.

In addition, Carleton College will confer an honorary doctorate degree upon distinguished scientist Jennifer Pietenpol '86, who will also give a brief address. 

Jennifer Pietenpol is the Director of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, the Benjamin F. Byrd, Jr. Professor of Molecular Oncology, and Professor of Biochemistry and Otolaryngology. Pietenpol’s research focuses on breast cancer and the p53 family signaling network – the most frequently targeted network for mutation in human tumors. Recently, Pietenpol has integrated her research expertise in tumor suppressor genes and molecular genetics with bioinformatic analysis of high dimensional genomic data sets to molecularly subtype difficult-to-treat, triple negative breast cancer.  Her results are being translated to clinical trials and alignment of patients to appropriate, molecularly targeted therapy.  Her research has impacted many areas of science and medicine and she has translated her discoveries into clinical impact for breast cancer patients.  Pietenpol’s research is funded by the National Cancer Institute, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, and the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Program.

In 2008, the President appointed Pietenpol to a six-year term on the National Cancer Advisory Board. Also, Pietenpol serves on the external advisory boards for eight NCI Comprehensive Cancer Centers and leads two as Chair.  In 2011, Pietenpol was appointed as member of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation Scientific Advisory Committee and as a member of the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research Advisory Committee.  Recently, Pietenpol completed a three-year, elected term on the AACR Board of Directors and is currently serving a three-year term as a Member of the Institute of Medicine, National Cancer Policy Forum.

In 1997, Pietenpol received the Burroughs Wellcome New Investigator Award in Toxicology; in 2004, she was honored with the Excellence in Teaching Award at Vanderbilt for her mentoring of graduate and medical students.  She was inducted into the Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars (2009) and received the Carleton College Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award in 2011. In 2012, she was elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for outstanding contributions to the field of cancer research, particularly the involvement of signaling networks in breast and other cancers.

After graduating from Carleton with honors in biology and as a member of Sigma Xi, Pietenpol earned a Ph.D. in cell biology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in 1990.  She continued her postgraduate training at Johns Hopkins Oncology Center (now Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center) before returning to Vanderbilt in 1995 as an assistant professor of biochemistry.  She achieved the rank of full professor in 2002. Pietenpol has served as associate editor or on the editorial board for numerous biomedical research journals. She has authored or co-authored over 120 articles published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.

It is with great pleasure that Carleton College confer on Jennifer Pietenpol the degree Doctor of Science honoris causa.

What other activities will be taking place during Commencement Weekend?

A variety of celebratory festivities are planned for the weekend.  The Schedule of Events will be updated as further activities are planned, so check back often.

Can the Commencement ceremony be viewed online?

Yes, Carleton College will offer a live stream of the Commencement ceremony for those unable to celebrate with their graduate in person. To "tune in" that morning, friends and family can go to this link. Streaming video of the event will begin at 9:15 a.m. CDT and will last to the conclusion of the ceremony at about 11:30 a.m. Afterwards, the Commencement video will be archived online at the same web address, for anyone wishing to view it later. In person or online, we look forward to sharing this special celebration with you!