Proud Middle Tennessee State University graduates can wear their True Blue devotion to their colleges on their sleeves — or, more accurately, around their shoulders — when they march into Murphy Center Saturday, Dec. 11, for fall 2021 commencement ceremonies.
Phillips Bookstore has received new custom MTSU blue stoles featuring each of the university’s seven colleges’ insignias for students to purchase to distinguish their gowns.
The colorful cloth sashes will be available when students begin picking up their mortarboards and gowns this Friday, Dec. 3, in the first-floor bookstore inside the MTSU Student Union at 1768 MTSU Blvd.
Students can pick up their basic graduation regalia, which their student fees have covered, through Friday, Dec. 10.
“For the past several years, the bookstore has featured stoles for graduation, whether it had the university seal and MTSU, ‘Class of’ stoles, etc. We also have different organizations that will come to us to acquire something for their group,” explains Melisa Warner, assistant manager of the university bookstore, which is operated by Barnes & Noble College.
“With the transition to Barnes & Noble, we’ve run low on our remaining inventory and wanted something new and different.”
The new MTSU college-specific stoles, which cost $49.98 plus tax, are made of royal blue satin with white trim on each side. One side of each wearer’s stole features the name of their degree college, and the other shows the university’s distinctive MTSU text logo with its trademark “swoosh.”
Graduation stoles’ popularity has boomed in the last decade at MTSU and at other universities as students seek to stand out in seas of single-shade caps and gowns. The brightly colored stoles and braided cords indicate organizational, athletic and social affiliations alongside academic honors.
Many university students’ stoles denote Greek organization membership, while others recreate flags of home countries, family heritage or study-abroad experiences in the colors, patterns and types of fabrics, including Kente print cloth, serapes and Native American weaves.
Red stoles marking military service are especially popular at MTSU each semester, as are the white, silver and gold Latin honors sashes marking a graduate’s status as a cum laude, magna cum laude and the coveted summa cum laude — “with highest honors” of a 3.9 to 4.0 GPA — degree recipient.
MTSU graduates of the University Honors College, for example, wear blue and white braided cords and special medallions with their gowns. Experiential Learning Scholars wear blue, silver and white cords to denote their hands-on service learning, and MT Engage Scholars have royal blue, white and gold cords to signify their interdisciplinary, integrative studies.
Senior Gift Program participants, graduating students who contribute at least the amount of their class year — $20.21, in this case — to the university’s development fund for scholarships and programs, now receive a special blue cord to wear at graduation. It’s easier to see than the unique lapel pin they’d received since the program launched in 2004.
“It’s only been here within the last 10 years where I think interest on campus is really piqued with students wanting to have something different and unique to wear for graduation or to represent their group or their organization,” Warner adds.
“We’ve been able to work with the School of Nursing students to order their stoles — that’s been a big one for the past several years. We’ve had some more specialized groups in the past who may have only had 10 people to graduate in their major and wanted something different to mark that, so we worked with them to come up with a stole.”
‘Students want to stand out in the crowd’
This fall’s graduating Class of 2021 will include 1,373 undergraduates and in the total of 1,672 students set to receive their degrees on Dec. 11.
Students in the College of Graduate Studies and the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences will graduate in a 9 a.m. ceremony in Hale Arena inside MTSU’s Murphy Center, and students in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences and Jones College of Business will receive their degrees in a 1 p.m. ceremony.
More details on the graduation regalia MTSU students wear at each commencement ceremony, including what colors refer to which academic specialties, are available in this fall’s official commencement program.
“Students want to stand out in the crowd,” says Warner. “There’s a stole and/or cord for just about every group and/or organization. All the colors mean something different, so depending on your organization, there is a particular color for that.”
For more information about MTSU’s fall 2021 commencement ceremonies on Dec. 11, visit https://mtsunews.com/graduation-info or https://mtsu.edu/graduation. For information on what’s on hand at MTSU’s Phillips Bookstore, visit https://mtsu.bncollege.com.
— Gina E. Fann (firstname.lastname@example.org)