Purdue Profiles: Chris Pass

April 17, 2012

Chris Pass, assistant registrar for records, registration and graduation. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)

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For Chris Pass, the weeks leading up to Purdue's commencement activities involve a flurry of planning and preparation -- and she wouldn't have it any other way.

As assistant registrar for records, registration and graduation, Pass has her fingers in nearly every aspect of commencement, from gathering students' degree records to organizing the ceremony. On May 11-13, Purdue will hold five commencement ceremonies for graduating students.

What are you duties related to commencement?

Right now, I'm coordinating the student participation. We're also sending out communications to the colleges to gather the names of faculty who are participating in each of the ceremonies. This week, I'll be working on finalizing the teleprompter scripts for the president when she speaks. We're getting the diploma carts ready, too.

We also get students' degree records ready for the candidate coordinators in the colleges to audit. We're responsible for getting the students' degrees posted to their transcripts, too, and we print the diplomas in-house.

It takes a village to get this job done. At any given time, we have about 10 staff members we can call on to help.

Is anything new happening during the upcoming commencement ceremonies?

Yes. This spring, we're piloting a change in the ceremonies that involves our orators calling out the name of each graduating undergraduate in addition to the graduate students. Previously, undergraduates' names have been projected onto a screen as they receive their diplomas, while only the graduate students' names have been announced.

We have more than 4,000 undergraduate candidates participating in the ceremonies this spring, so it's going to be a big undertaking. But this is something President France Córdova has wanted to see happen since she came to the University. There are other universities that pronounce undergraduates' names during commencement ceremonies, so we thought we'd try it here.

Due to announcing each individual's name, instead of releasing diplomas to students during commencement, we will have to hold a diploma distribution day in the Armory on the Monday following the ceremonies.

What is the most rewarding thing about bringing commencement ceremonies to fruition?

Commencement weekend is the big payoff. I have a real passion for making sure students' last experience on campus is something that they'll remember forever. I think a lot of us who work on commencement feel that same passion, too. We get to see families come to campus from all over the world to watch their students mark one of the biggest milestones in their lives. To be part of that is a privilege, and it's very rewarding.

How did you become involved in helping with commencement?

I came to Purdue in March of 1990. Prior to that, I worked at Fairfield Manufacturing in Lafayette for 11 years as a purchasing buyer. I was looking for a change, and Purdue offered exactly that.

When I was first hired at the University, I was a transcript clerk. Then I became a records clerk, and then a candidate coordinator. I am now the supervisor of that position.

As far as what interested me in the Registrar's Office, I've always enjoyed working with a variety of people. Here, I get to do that -- I work with faculty and staff members across campus. I also work with students, parents and with prospective employers, who often need degrees verified.

What changes do you predict might happen in your department in the future?

There are some exciting things happening with technology. For example, in the fall we'll be implementing an electronic degree audit system. Four years from now, it's going to allow us to run an electronic degree audit to determine whether students have met their graduation requirements. It's going to make our jobs a lot easier, because right now, we have to audit diplomas during the week of commencement, on a three- or four-day turnaround. We have a degree audit system, but it's not used across all academic areas the way the electronic one will be.

It's been exciting, really, to witness how technology has changed our jobs. When I started, we were entering transcripts on a typewriter. To see technology improve our response time and our services is wonderful. To be part of that is truly special. I can't wait to see how technology changes even more things in the future.