Internationally acclaimed journalist, 2021 Nobel Peace Prize winner to open Commencement celebrations

Graduates Day featuring Maria A. Ressa 

Thursday, May 11, at 11 a.m. CT 

Maria A. Ressa, an internationally acclaimed journalist who has endured political threats and government arrests for her commitment to truth and democracy, will receive Vanderbilt University’s prestigious Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal when she speaks to the university’s graduating students and their families during 2023 Commencement activities. Ressa’s address will be on May 11 at 11 a.m. on the Commons Lawn.  

The Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal, one of the university’s highest honors, is given to individuals who define the 21st century and exemplify the best qualities of the human spirit. It was created and endowed by Vanderbilt Law School graduate Ed Nichols and his wife, Janice, in honor of Edward Carmack and Lucile Hamby Nichols. 

Ressa received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021 for her efforts to safeguard freedom of expression while being persecuted by the administration of Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines from 2016 to 2022.

2023 Commencement activities 

Thursday, May 11 – Commencement Celebration 

The Commencement Celebration, a new take on the Strawberries and Champagne celebration, will be Thursday, May 11, from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Rec Field 2. This event will include a live band, light refreshments, fireworks and champagne to toast the Class of 2023. The celebration is open to all graduating students and their guests, and those who wish to attend may come and go during the timeframe. Your ID will be required to be served alcoholic beverages.

Friday, May 12, at 9 a.m. CT – Main and Undergraduate Ceremony 

The main ceremony for all graduating students and their guests will be at 9 a.m. on Friday, May 12, on Alumni Lawn. After the main ceremony, graduate and professional school graduates will be dismissed to attend their respective ceremonies in locations across campus. After that, the diploma ceremony for undergraduate students will begin.   

Chancellor Daniel Diermeier will lead the event and deliver his Commencement address to the graduates and their guests. The main and undergraduate ceremonies will be livestreamed on the Vanderbilt homepage and the Vanderbilt Commencement website. 

Tickets are not needed for the main ceremony or the undergraduate ceremony. 

Friday, May 12 – Graduate and professional student ceremonies 

Graduate and professional students in the Class of 2023 will be honored at the main ceremony and in ceremonies held by their respective schools across campus on Friday, May 12. 

>> Find more information on the specific ceremonies and locations.  

Please note: Some graduate and professional school ceremonies may require tickets; this will vary by school. 

Rain plan

With rain in the forecast during Vanderbilt’s Graduates Day and Commencement festivities on May 11–12, event planners have secured an alternate location for the undergraduate Commencement ceremony—Bridgestone Arena, 501 Broadway in Nashville—in case Mother Nature brings storms to the outdoor ceremony planned for Alumni Lawn. 

Location changes due to weather will be posted on and sent by email as soon as officials can make a decision from the day’s weather. Learn more here.


For visitors coming to campus, find information on guest parking. 

Accessibility accommodations 

Wheelchairs will be available for loan by prior reservation. Wheelchairs can be reserved for Graduates Day on Thursday, May 11, and Commencement on Friday, May 12. A valid driver’s license is required as collateral for borrowing a wheelchair; the ID will be returned when the wheelchair is turned in. Areas within the seating sections of all ceremonies will be reserved for wheelchair users. Only one guest is permitted to sit with the wheelchair user due to limited space. A limited number of wheelchairs will be available for walk-ups on a first come, first served basis. 

ID checks 

At any Commencement receptions, graduates and guests will be required to show a driver’s license or valid ID before being served alcohol. Wheelchair users who are 21 or older will be issued a wristband when they give their driver’s license to wheelchair checkout staff. ID check stations will be available at the campus celebration, and many graduate and professional school receptions will offer ID check stations. 


Class of 2023 graduates will receive their diplomas during the ceremony. The University Registrar is able to mail diplomas to graduates who are unable to attend. Find more information about diplomas on the University Registrar website. 

Commencement programs 

To make Commencement more sustainable, a digital program will be available on the day of Commencement. The program will include a list of all graduating students, recognition of student awards and background on ceremony traditions. Graduates and guests will have the option to order, at no cost, a printed program after the ceremony. 

Find all of the latest information on celebrations for the Class of 2023 on the Vanderbilt Commencement website.