Info for Family and Friends

This guide is provided for information purposes for prospective graduates participating in Commencement Exercises and their families; it should not be construed as evidence that degree requirements have been met. Please read this information thoroughly and save this document for future reference.

If you have any questions regarding the commencement exercises or the convocation, you may wish to call the Special Events Office at (864) 503-5985 or read the graduation Frequently Asked Questions

Accommodations and Restaurants

View our Visitors Information web page for accommodations, restaurants and other information. Also, the Spartanburg Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) offers complete information on accommodations, restaurants and maps. The CVB is located at 298 Magnolia St. in Spartanburg. You may wish to call the Visitor Center (864) 594-5050 or 1-800-374-8326.

Download the USC Upstate Visitor's Guide PDF Document

Family Members and Guests

Admission tickets or invitations are not required. The commencement exercises are open to the public, and you may invite as many guests as you wish as long as the event is outdoors. Upon the announcement of the commencement speaker, this policy is subject to change. Guest seating will be on a first-come-first-seated basis. There are reserved seating areas for the degree candidates, University faculties, honored dignitaries and special guests.

Family members and guests of the degree candidates can enter campus from multiple directions (see parking information) and will be directed to park by the University Police. There are parking lots adjacent to the quadrangle where the ceremony is held, and parking lots further away will offer a shuttle bus for guests. Families and guests are urged to be seated approximately one hour before the beginning of the ceremony. Programs will be handed out by student marshals who will be located on the perimeter of the seating area. During the ceremony, we ask that guests remain in their seat and keep the aisles clear. At the conclusion of the ceremony, family members, guests and degree candidates should remain at their seat until the recessional of the platform party, University faculties and graduates is complete. 

Degree candidates, family members, and guests should designate a place to meet after the ceremonies.

Severe Weather Plan

The University of South Carolina Upstate is committed to holding the commencement ceremony outdoors given no severe weather, such as lightning or heavy downpours (bring rain gear for light rain). Tickets are not usually required for an outdoor ceremony as there is ample seating. In the event of severe weather the ceremony will be moved to the Hodge Arena.

Due to the limited space of an indoor ceremony and the growing number of graduates, tickets will be required for an indoor ceremony. Graduates will be given four (4) tickets in total granting admission to the Hodge Arena for live viewing of commencement.  Overflow seating will be made available in the Great Room of the University Readiness Center, where the ceremonies will be live streamed on the mounted screens for those without a ticket.

****PLEASE NOTE**** 
The doors to both the Hodge Arena and the URC Great Room will be open one hour prior to the ceremony. Graduation tickets will all be general admission seating in the Hodge Arena. Each graduate will be issued a set number of tickets. Lost tickets cannot be replaced.  All persons attending the live ceremony must have a ticket, this includes infants and young children.

The decision to implement the severe weather plan will be made by Noon the day before commencement. Involved parties will be informed of this decision by the following communication methods:

  • USC Upstate web site: Any relocation announcements will be located on the USC Upstate website ( by no later than 12:15 p.m. the day before commencement.
  • Email:  Students, faculty and staff will be sent an email announcing the change of venue by no later than 12:15 p.m. the day before commencement
  • Electronic Message Boards: Campus and highway electronic signage will announce venue changes
  • Switchboard: The university switchboard operator will have all relevant information for those wishing to call campus at 864-503-5000 for inclement weather announcements
  • TV/Radio: Select media outlets will be asked to communicate any severe weather announcements

The ceremony time would remain the same and would begin at 6 p.m. (Processionals would begin at 5:40 p.m.) Graduates would report no later than 4 p.m. to the arena of the auditorium. 

Family Members or Guests with Special Needs

Family members or guests who have special needs, including mobility impairments due to health conditions, or unable to walk moderate distances will be directed by the University Police upon entering campus and can be dropped off immediately beside the quadrangle. The driver of the vehicle will be directed to the adjacent parking lots. Seating for family members and guests with special needs will be available in the handicapped seating sections. No prior arrangements are required to secure seating in this area. One companion may accompany those guests sitting in this special seating area. Event Marshals will be present to direct these guests to the nearest accessible seating.

Sign language interpreting will be provided for the hearing-impaired. The interpreter will be positioned on the platform.


The USC Upstate campus has ample parking surrounding the quadrangle where the ceremony will be held. We anticipate a large crowd for the commencement exercises, please plan to arrive in ample time to park and walk to the quad. Parking is prohibited in fire lanes and on sidewalks.

Handicapped parking spaces are located in all parking lots on campus. Only vehicles with handicapped license plates, disability placards or hangtags will be allowed to park in the handicapped parking area and other designated handicapped areas around campus.

University Police officers will be directing the traffic flow when guests are both entering and exiting campus. Shuttle buses will be provided to and from parking lots located on the North side of campus. 

View the USC Upstate Parking Map

Travel Routes

Because of the large number of vehicles approaching the campus prior to the ceremony, delays of 45 minutes or more are not unusual. Please be cautious and plan accordingly.  

Directions to USC Upstate

Public Facilities

First Aid services and handicapped accessible restrooms are available both on campus and at the Auditorium. In case of an emergency, EMS will be on site and University Police will be available to assist you.

Professional Photographers
Professional photographers will photograph each degree candidate as he/she is greeted by Chancellor Kelly. Complimentary photograph proofs will be sent to the degree candidate at his/her permanent address approximately 30 working days after the commencement exercises. Additional photographs may be purchased upon receipt of the proof. No prior arrangements are necessary for this service; all degree candidates will be photographed during the ceremony. There is absolutely no obligation to purchase any photographs. Families and guests will not be permitted on the event floor during the ceremonies.

There will also be a professional photographer available to take still cap and gown photographs of the degree candidates on this special day. This photographer will be located in the lobby of the G. B. Hodge Center from 3:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. for the May Commencement exercises. For more information, contact the special events office at (864) 503-5985.

Alma Mater

Alma MaterWhen the Chancellor closes both the commencement exercises following the awarding of the degrees, the audience is asked to rise for the singing of the first verse only of the Alma Mater. The words of the song were penned by Professor George Wauchope of the English Department in 1911 (adopted in 1912) and are printed in the commencement program. The tune is that of "Flow Gently, Sweet Afton." "Here's a health, Carolina!" is a phrase which is repeated in Carolina's Alma Mater. Over the years, the custom has arisen of raising the right hand, with the fingers cupped, when the phrase "Here's a health, Carolina!", occurs, as if offering a toast. The Alma Mater is always sung with heads uncovered.

We hail thee, Carolina, and sing thy high praise;
With loyal devotion, rememb'ring the days,
When proudly we sought thee, thy children to be;
Here's a health, Carolina, forever to thee!

Since pilgrims of learning, we entered thy walls
And found dearest comrades in thy classic halls;
We've honored and loved thee, as sons faithfully;
Here's a health, Carolina, forever to thee!

Generations of sons have rejoiced to proclaim
Thy watchword of service, thy beauty and fame
For ages to come shall their rallying cry be;
Here's a health, Carolina, forever to thee!

Fair shrine of high honor and truth, thou shalt still
Blaze forth as a beacon, thy mission fulfill;
And be crowned by all hearts in a new jubilee;
Here's a health, Carolina, forever to thee!

If you have any questions regarding the commencement exercises or the convocation, you may wish to call the Special Events Office at (864) 503-5985 or read the graduation Frequently Asked Questions.