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Here’s who will deliver the address at Pitt’s first University-wide Winter Commencement ceremony

  • University News
  • Commencement 2023

Civic education advocate Rajiv Vinnakota will give the commencement address at Pitt’s first University-wide Winter Commencement ceremony.

The ceremony, which will take place on Dec. 17, at 2 p.m. in the Petersen Events Center, will honor students who have earned or are earning a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree between May and December 2023.

Beginning this academic year, Pitt will hold two University-wide commencement ceremonies: an event in the winter and a second in the spring for those who graduate between January and April. Both will come with all the usual pomp and circumstance Pitt grads have come to expect.

 Joe McCarthy, interim provost and senior vice chancellor, explained:

“It has become very clear in recent years that Pitt has the happy challenge of exceeding the capacity of the Petersen Events Center at its April commencement ceremonies. It is also certainly true that, given the slightly smaller size of the December graduating class, it will be possible to provide more tickets to those celebrating with each graduate,” McCarthy said. "April can be a long time to wait — and so a December option feels appropriate."

Because this is the first University-wide December celebration, however, the Office of the Provost will allow students to participate in the spring commencement if they choose to.

About the speaker

Vinnakota is the president of the Institute for Citizens and Scholars, an organization that seeks to cultivate Gen Z’s interest in democracy and civic engagement. He has also served as the executive vice president of the youth and engagement division at the Aspen Institute. For 18 years, he was the co-founder and CEO of The SEED Foundation, the nation's first network of public college preparatory boarding schools for underserved children.

Vinnakota, who majored in molecular biology at Princeton, has earned fellowships from Echoing Green, Ashoka and the Aspen Institute throughout his career. He’s also earned Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson Award, Harvard University’s Innovation in American Government Award and Oprah Winfrey’s Use Your Life Award.

Vinnakota serves as a board director for two public companies, Enovis Corporation and ESAB.

What graduates need to know

To accommodate guests, registered candidates will receive a minimum of four electronic tickets via Ticketmaster, with the final number determined after the Dec. 6 registration deadline.

Detailed information about the ceremony, including logistics, a livestream link and ticket distribution, can be found on the official commencement website.

Celebrate your graduate’s accomplishment with University-branded yard signs, Zoom backgrounds, cake toppers and more. You can also follow the celebration on social media using the hashtag #PittWinterGrad.


— Donovan Harrell, photography by Aimee Obidzinski