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What the gowns, hoods and adornments mean

Published May 2018

The commencement ceremony is one of the oldest and most colorful customs that links 21st century education with its origins.

The academic apparel contemporary scholars wear dates back to medieval times and the rise of universities. Medieval scholars dressed in gowns, caps and hoods to distinguish themselves from merchants and other townspeople. The apparel showed they belonged to the Guild of the Master of Arts, the teaching guild where the bachelor was the apprentice of the master.

NDSU academic attire

  • Students earning bachelor’s degrees wear black gowns and mortarboards.
  • Students earning master’s degrees wear green gowns and mortarboards.
  • Students earning doctoral degrees wear green gowns with velvet borders on the front and velvet bars on the sleeves. They also wear velvet tams.

Graduate students receive hoods during a hooding ceremony at the time their degrees are conferred. The hood is a triangular fold of cloth worn over the back of the gown. The hood is faced with a color that denotes the graduate’s field of study.

Maize                          Agriculture, Food Systems and Natural Resources

Brown                         Landscape Architecture and Environmental Design

White                           Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Taupe                          Business

Light Blue                   Education

Orange                        Engineering

Maroon                       Human Development

Apricot                        Nursing

Olive green                 Pharmacy

Golden Yellow             Science and Mathematics

White                           University Studies

Graduation honors

Students who earn academic honors wear adornments, such as cords, ribbons and medallions, as part of their academic regalia.

Gold medallion with the NDSU seal on a gold ribbon: Graduation with honor for a student who entered NDSU as freshman and earned an institutional grade point average of 3.5 or greater. Applies only to the baccalaureate degree.

Blue and gold cord: Member of the Beta Gamma Sigma international business honor society. Bachelor’s candidates are in the top 10 percent of their class, and MBA candidates are the top 20 percent of their class.

Blue and gold medallion with a blue ribbon: Member of the Blue Key national honor society, which recognizes students for remarkable leadership and outstanding service to the university and community. Students must be in the top 35 percent of their class.

Forest green and light tan honor cord: Member of Gamma Sigma Delta international agriculture honor society. Members have demonstrated superior teaching, research or service to agriculture while maintaining a 3.5 grade point average. They represent agricultural excellence at the undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate levels.

Gold medallion on a blue and gold ribbon: Member of the Golden Key international honor society, which recognizes juniors and seniors from all disciplines who are in the top 15 percent of their class.

Forest green and black ribbon pin: Member of the Lambda Beta Honor Society, a national respiratory care honor society, who ranks in the top 25 percent of the respiratory care class.

Gold cord: Member of the Lambda Pi Eta national communication honor society, who has a cumulative grade point average of 3.0, with a 3.25 in communication major courses.

Gold medallion on a red ribbon: Member of the McNair Scholars Program, which recognizes students for contributing outstanding research to their academic field and their commitment to pursuing a doctoral degree. Only 29 undergraduate students are selected to participate in the program each year.

Gold medallion: Member of the Mortar Board national honor society, which recognizes college seniors for distinguished ability and achievement in scholarship, leadership and service. Members must have at least a 3.0 grade point average.

Navy blue honor cord: Member of the National Residence Hall Honorary. Members must demonstrate leadership and academic qualities within the top 1 percent of the residence hall population.

Gold stole: Member of the Phi Kappa Phi honorary scholastic society. Members are chosen from students in the top 10 percent of their class.

Members of the Order of Omega national fraternity and sorority life honorary society also wear gold stoles. This honor society recognizes the top 3 percent of juniors and seniors who have exemplified high standards in the areas of scholarship with a 3.25 grade point average and leadership involvement within their respective organization, fraternity or sorority, campus and local community.

Pale blue and red cord: Member of Phi Alpha Theta national history honor society. Members represent excellence in historical research at all levels.

Black and gold cord: Member of the Phi Eta Sigma national honor society. Students must have a 3.5 institutional grade point average at the close of any full-time semester during their first year.

Double cords of entwined purple, white and yellow: Member of Phi Upsilon Omicron honorary human development and education society. Academic achievement must be within the top 35 percent of majors in the field who qualify for membership.

Cloissonne medallion on a red ribbon: Member of Pi Sigma Alpha national political science honor society. Students must have a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 and a 3.0 grade point average in all political science courses.

White stole with Pi Tau Sigma coat of arms: Member of Pi Tau Sigma international mechanical engineering honor society. To qualify, juniors in the mechanical engineering program must be in the top 25 percent of their class; as non-graduating seniors, members must be in the top 3 percent of their class.

Silver stole: Member of Psi Chi national psychology honor society. Members must have a 3.0 cumulative grade point average, a 3.5 major grade point average and rank in the upper 35 percent of their class.

Purple and white honor cord: Member of the Rho Chi national pharmacy honor society and top 20 percent of the class.

Orchid and white cord: Member of Sigma Theta Tau international honor society of nursing. Members must have a 3.0 grade point average, rank in the upper 35 percent of their nursing class and meet the expectation of academic integrity.

Red stole: Member of Sigma Tau Delta international English honor society. Undergraduate members must rank in the top 35 percent of their class. Graduate members must have at least a 3.3 grade point average.

White satin collar with the bent embroidered in gold: Member of Tau Beta Pi national engineering society who is in the top one-fifth of the engineering class.

White sole with gold embroidery: Member of Tau Sigma Delta national architecture honor society who has a 3.0 grade point average and is in the upper 20 percent of the class.

Gold medallion on a green ribbon: Member of the University Honors Program. He or she has completed, in addition to the primary major, a four-year curriculum of interdisciplinary honors courses and produced and publicly presented a senior honors thesis.

Medallion with a burgundy ribbon: Member of Upsilon Pi Epsilon national computer science honor society. To qualify, undergraduate students must be in the top 35 percent of their class and have a minimum grade point average of 3.3, with at least a 3.5 grade point average in 24 or more credits of computer science courses. Graduate students must have at least 18 upper-division computer science credits with a minimum grade point average of 3.5.

Red, white and blue braided cord adorned with a medallion representing the student’s branch of service: Member of the Veteran Honor Society. To qualify, the student must have at least a 3.0 cumulative grade point average and represent the NDSU veteran community in a positive way.

Student Focused. Land Grant. Research University.

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Vice President for University Relations
North Dakota State University
Phone: +1 (701) 231-1068 - Fax: (701) 231-1989
Campus address: Old Main 204
Mailing address: Dept 6000 PO Box 6050, Fargo, ND 58108-6050
Page manager: NDSU University Relations

Last Updated: Wednesday, May 09, 2018 3:25:35 PM
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