Academic dress originated at Oxford and Cambridge in the 1300s. As the universities passed from ecclesiastical control, brighter colors distinguished the academic robe from the drab clerical gown. Colonial American universities based their academic regalia on the British system. In 1895, an intercollegiate commission established a uniform code for hoods, gowns and caps.
The hood originally had three uses: a head covering, a shoulder cape and a bag in which alms could be collected. When large wigs were popular in Britain, the cape part of the hood was split in front and a narrow neckband was inserted. The entire cape and hood were allowed to fall back, and it never returned to the original style.
At commencement, the hood gives color and meaning. The satin lining inside the hood is the official color or colors of the institution conferring the degree; blue and gold represent UNC. In most cases, the color of the velvet trim of the hood indicates the degree; PHD, EDD, DA DNP, AUD.
The doctoral colors of the various fields are:
Royal blue – Applied Statistics and Research, Counseling Psychology, Counselor Education and Supervision, Educational Mathematics, Educational Psychology, Educational Technology, Higher Education and Student Affairs Leadership, Human Rehabilitation, Nursing Education, School Psychology, Special Education, Sport and Exercise Science
Gold – Biology, Chemistry
Light Blue – Educational Leadership, Education Studies, Interdisciplinary Studies
Pink – Music, Interdisciplinary Studies
Spruce green – Audiology
Apricot - Doctor of Nursing Practice
The master's gown, worn closed, has long pointed sleeves. The bachelor's gown has sleeves that are cut off at the elbow.
Doctors wear a gown with velvet panels draped around the neck and stitched down the front edges. Three horizontal velvet bars, indicating the third and highest academic degree are also stitched on the upper arm of the bell-shaped sleeves.
The cap is a sign of the freedom of scholarship and the responsibility and dignity with which scholarship endows the wearer. Caps date back to freed slaves in ancient Rome who won the privilege of wearing a cap. Old poetry records the cap of scholarship as a square symbolizing the book, although other authorities claim that it is a mortar board, the symbol of the masons.
The color of the tassel on the caps denotes the discipline. The tassel is worn on the left for undergraduates and on the right for graduate students:
- Doctor's tassel is gold bullion
- The bachelor's, master's and specialist's tassel is navy blue
In all cultures throughout time, processions have been a natural form of public celebration. They have played a prominent part in the great festivals across the world. In the past, games were either opened or accompanied by elaborate processions, which later formed an essential part of the celebration.
The academic procession and pageantry is a featured part of the commencement program. Commencement is a solemn climax and recognition of a graduate's years of study and preparation – a symbolic declaration that all members of the academic community are bound by a common purpose and shared commitment to the ideals of higher education, including the search for meaning, truth and understanding. The procession brings to the platform the Board of Trustees, provost, deans, honorary degrees recipients, speakers, vice presidents and other university officials.
The mace is a world symbol of tradition and a bond to centuries of academic ritual. In Medieval times, a mace was used as a hand-to-hand combat weapon. By approximately 1400 A.D., its use became more ceremonial in nature, first as a wooden staff carried by royal messengers and then as an instrument used by academicians in rituals such as commencement and inaugurations.
UNC's university mace is used for formal events such as commencement and convocation, which are attended by faculty in full academic regalia. The university mace is a symbol of the legal and chartered authority of the university president. When the mace is present, the authority of the university is present. The honor of carrying the mace is reserved for a distinguished faculty member.
The University of Northern Colorado Mace was handcrafted by Professor William S. Cordiner in a meticulously constructed combination of layered ebony and maple, connected by bronze fittings to an American walnut spiral. "University of Northern Colorado" is etched into a bronze band encircling the head of the mace. The materials used represent the strength and quality needed by an educational institution in a frontier territory.
The University of Northern Colorado Mace and President's Medallion symbolize higher education traditions. The President's Medallion, like the mace, was a gift to the institution from distinguished alumnus Victor Nottingham (B.A.- '52). The solid polished brass medallion is suspended from a heavy brass chain. The mace and Chain of Office are presented only at ceremonies in which faculty members are in full academic regalia.
The University Seal, shown on the medallion, forms the centerpiece of the ceremonial chain that is worn by the president during the ceremony.