Harvard Kennedy School celebrates our graduating students who carry the School’s mission of public service around the globe.

 

Our graduates embody the aspiration that skilled leadership and smart public policy can improve people’s lives.

This page will be updated regularly with details about the Commencement 2024 celebrations at HKS. For general information about Harvard Commencement, events schedules, and locations, visit commencement.harvard.edu.
 


 

Schedule of Events

Times and locations are subject to change and will be communicated to graduating students and updated on this page. Events are not open to the public.
 

Tuesday, May 21

  • 1-3 p.m. | MC/MPA Mason Certificate Ceremony | John F. Kennedy Memorial Park
    The certificate ceremony is a joyful celebration to recognize the achievements of graduating MC/MPA Mason Fellows.
     
  • 3-5 p.m. | Doctoral Program Reception | HKS Campus, Malkin Penthouse
    PhD graduates and their guests gather with faculty members to celebrate each other and their accomplishments.

 

Wednesday, May 22

  • 9 a.m. | Class Day Awards Ceremony* | John F. Kennedy Memorial Park | Livestream Livestream icon.
    Class Day is a time-honored HKS tradition. Graduating students and their guests as well as faculty members and staff celebrate the Class of 2024, listen to graduating student speakers, and award recognized members of the graduating class for their remarkable achievements.
     
  • Time TBC | HKS Graduation Address* | John F. Kennedy Memorial Park | Livestream Livestream icon.
    The graduation address is open to graduating students, their guests, and members of the HKS community. The speaker will be announced in Spring 2024.
     
  • 4-6 p.m. | MPP, MPA/ID, MPA, and MC/MPA Degree Program Celebrations | John F. Kennedy Memorial Park
    Graduating students gather with their degree program classmates the day before Commencement to celebrate each other and their HKS experience.

 

Thursday, May 23 | Commencement Day

Graduating students must wear full academic regalia at all Commencement Day celebrations. They will begin receiving emails in early 2024 with instructions and details about Commencement Week.

  • 6:45 a.m. | Class Photos and Procession to Harvard Yard (graduates only) | John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum
    Graduating students meet on the HKS campus for class photos before proceeding to Harvard Yard together to participate in Morning Exercises.
     
  • 9:45-11:45 a.m. | Morning Exercises* | Tercentenary Theatre, Harvard University Campus 
    This is a University-wide ticketed event. Each graduating student receives two (2) guest tickets for this event. All graduating students from Harvard University participate and sit with their schools. Each school stands and is presented by their dean to the President of Harvard University who confers their degrees en masse. Individual diplomas are awarded later in the day. 

  • Approximately 12:45 p.m. | HKS Diploma Ceremony* | John F. Kennedy Memorial Park | Livestream Livestream icon.
    The HKS Diploma Ceremony is held directly following Morning Exercises. Diplomas will be awarded to graduates individually on stage at this special celebration. Tickets are not required for this event. Guest seating in JFK Memorial Park will open at 11 a.m. with grab-and-go meals offered in the reception tent. 
     

*To be livestreamed on the HKS website.

Dates, times, and locations for the Harvard-wide affinity graduation ceremonies will be announced in Spring 2024. Overseen by the Harvard Office for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging, these special ceremonies are student-led and staff supported events that recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of graduates from historically marginalized and underrepresented communities.

 

Required Regalia

Wearing full academic regalia at all events on Commencement Day (Thursday, May 23) is a long-standing tradition and a requirement of graduates participating in the day's ceremonies. You may either rent or purchase your required regalia from the Harvard Coop.

Rent or purchase your required regalia by Sunday, April 7.
 

Student Orations Competition 

The Student Orations Competition is one of Harvard’s oldest Commencement traditions. During Morning Exercises on Commencement Day, three students chosen by a panel of judges each deliver a memorized address to some 32,000 audience members, including the governing boards, honorary degree recipients, faculty members, parents, alumni, and graduates.

Watch Vic Hogg MPP 2023 deliver the Graduate English Address at the 2023 Morning Exercises. 

2024 Schedule 

  • Wednesday, February 28, 3 p.m., Harvard Yard | Orators' Workshop |  Learn about the competition and the application process. Watch the 2023 Orators' Workshop
  • Friday, March 22, 11:59 p.m. | Application deadline  
  • Thursday, April 11, 4 p.m., location to be confirmed | Preliminary Auditions
  • Thursday, April 18, 4 p.m., location to be confirmed | Final Auditions
     

First Destination Survey

As HKS students know, data is important to clarify trends and impact. 

In the coming weeks, the HKS Office of Career Advancement (HarvardKey required) will reach out to graduating students about the HKS First Destination Survey. Your responses will be an opportunity to give feedback to OCA, report on your post-graduation plans, and equip OCA with valuable information on how to serve you now and in the future.

Reponses are shared in the annual employment snapshot.

 

Who to Contact

HKS Commencement Team

Associate Director of Student Services Jane Finn-Foley serves as the HKS Commencement Coordinator and leads the Degree Programs and Student Affairs Commencement planning team. She is the school's primary contact for all things related to Commencement. 

Contact Jane if you have questions or need assistance.

Class Marshals

Being elected as Class Marshal is an honor bestowed upon two graduating members of each degree program.

As a group and with oversight from the Office of Student Services and the Commencement Coordinator, the 8 class marshals execute the Class Day Awards Ceremony (including selecting, with input from their classmates, the Carballo Teaching Award and the Sue Williamson Spirit Award for Staff) and serve as a resource for their class regarding commencement and related activities.

The 2024 Class Marshals will be announced in Spring 2024.

 

The HKS community is looking forward to celebrating the remarkable achievements of the HKS Class of 2024 in May. Whether you will be joining us in person or remotely, we are thrilled you will be part of the celebration.  

The full HKS Commencement Week Schedule of Events is at the top of this page. However, specific details for guests on Commencement Day are listed below.
 

THURSDAY, MAY 23 | COMMENCEMENT DAY

  • 6:45 a.m. | Gates to Harvard Yard openTercentenary Theatre, Harvard University campus
     
  • 9:45-11:45 a.m. | Morning ExercisesTercentenary Theatre, Harvard University campus
    This is a ticketed University-wide event. Each graduating student receives two (2) guest tickets; however, a ticket does not guarantee a seat. All graduating students participate and sit with their schools.

    If you are attending Morning Exercises in person, learn about guidelines and ticket information, inclement and severe weather plans, and general information on parking, restrooms, and first aid. Backpacks and luggage are not permitted.  

    Morning Exercises will be livestreamed on the University's Commencement website as well as in the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum and dining area on the HKS campus where you have access to bathrooms and may purchase food and drinks at the HKS Café. This is a comfortable alternative to attending the festive but (very) crowded Morning Exercises where you are unlikely to see your graduate. Additionally, you will be able to secure seats sooner under the tent in John F. Kennedy Memorial Park for the HKS Diploma Ceremony where graduates cross the stage to receive their diplomas.  
     
  • 11 a.m. | Guest seating opens for HKS Diploma CeremonyJohn F. Kennedy Memorial Park
    All guests are required to go through a security bag check to enter the park. Remember to pick up your grab-and-go meals in the reception tent from 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.
     
  • Approximately 12:45 p.m. | HKS Diploma CeremonyJohn F. Kennedy Memorial Park
    Diplomas will be awarded to graduates individually on stage. Tickets are not required for this event. 

    For everyone's safety and security, guests are not permitted to leave their seats to take photos of graduates during the ceremony. We thank you for your cooperation. Professional photographers from Grad Images will photograph each graduate as they receive their diplomas. Graduates will receive an email linking to their photos several weeks after the HKS Diploma Ceremony with the option for them to purchase.  

    Portable, accessible bathrooms are available in John F. Kennedy Memorial Park. Follow signage or ask HKS staff members in red shirts if you need assistance. You may also use bathrooms inside the HKS buildings; however, you must pass through security bag checks again to reenter the park. 

 

Additional information 

For any questions or assistance, contact the HKS Commencement team. If you have questions on Commencement Day, visit our information tables in John F. Kennedy Memorial Park and the Wexner Building main lobby. HKS staff members in red shirts will also assist you.    

 

Harvard University welcomes individuals with disabilities to participate in its programming and activities.

Graduating HKS students will be asked to submit a form in March 2024 to request accessible seating and other accommodations for their guests. The University will make every effort to secure services, but they are subject to availability.

Live captioning is provided at the Class Day Awards Ceremony, HKS Graduation Address, and HKS Diploma Ceremony.

If you are a guest of a graduating HKS student and have questions, please contact us.

Air travel

This Commencement, HKS is asking that you consider buying carbon offsets to mitigate the negative climate and health impacts of air travel if you are flying into Cambridge.

The School’s Sustainability Leadership Council has identified two platforms, Atmosfair and Wren, that provide a way to calculate your greenhouse gas emissions impact from air travel and purchase carbon offsets. There are many other ways to offset the climate impacts of your air travel. Harvard University does not endorse any provider of carbon offsets or other vendor.

HKS will purchase carbon offsets for the Class of 2024's HKS Graduation Address speaker.
 

Food-related

Harvard uses more than 250 local farmers to supply food for our campuses’ events and community members throughout the year. We select our menus based on seasonal availability to make sure we are able to provide more climate-friendly foods for our community members.

Harvard University Dining Services partners with the local nonprofit, Food For Free, that collects and donates leftover food to distribute to more than 100 food donation programs for the food-insecure.
 

Plastic/water-related

HKS has been working to reduce plastic waste in our on-campus operations, limit the amount of plastic that arrives on campus, and collaborate with our vendors to change their purchasing practices to more climate and health-friendly products with less plastic.

HKS no longer serves individual plastic water bottles at Commencement. Instead, we offer a limited number of recyclable metal water bottles; please recycle these bottles when you are finished enjoying your water. We also encourage you to bring your own reusable water bottles to use at the many water stations available. Compostable cups are also available at these water stations. 

The forks, knives, spoons, plates, and napkins at this year’s Commencement are 100 percent compostable. Please use the green compostable bins to reduce our waste streams.
 

Landscaping

Harvard’s campuses are part of a larger, interconnected ecosystem, and the actions we take will have ripple effects through the natural environment.

Harvard will protect and enhance the ecosystems and green spaces that our University owns, manages, and impacts, in order to enhance regional biodiversity and personal well-being.

The majority of Harvard’s landscaped areas use an organic landscaping program free of pesticides.
 

Paper

Harvard Commencement is reducing its paper use to save trees. We are printing fewer materials and moving more information online to reduce our paper footprint.

Read about our exceptional graduates and watch livestreams of the Class Day Awards Ceremony, remarks from former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon MC/MPA 1984, and the Class of 2023 HKS Diploma Ceremony.