Quinnipiac graduation to feature sensory-friendly spaces, combined ceremonies

Carleigh Beck, Copy Editor

Quinnipiac University officials are introducing sensory rooms at the class of 2023 commencement ceremonies set to take place May 12-15.

Ephemia Nicolakis, a senior 3+1 graphic design and public relations double major who worked to add this resource at graduation, said these rooms are used to help those who have difficulties processing stimuli. 

“People with disabilities, sensory issues or (post-traumatic stress disorder), who can’t be in loud environments that could potentially be triggering, (will) have a safe space to go to on campus and still experience and watch graduation,” Nicolakis said. “I think a big part of it is that we just want to make sure that commencement is accessible for everyone equally.”

University officials will also combine the undergraduate and graduate commencement ceremonies within each school and college.

Karla Natale, associate vice president of community partnerships, said university officials did this to enable each school to celebrate their graduates together.

“Any changes we make are to enhance the overall Commencement experience,” Natale wrote in an email statement to the Chronicle April 25. “The Commencement Committee works throughout the year to provide our graduates and their families with a positive and celebratory experience as they transition from students to alumni. We want our graduates to remain Bobcats for Life and stay active with their university.”


Illustration by (Amanda Riha) and (Lindsey Komson)

Nicolakis was on the marketing team for graduation last year and will be receiving her bachelor’s degree at commencement this year. After a friend reached out to her with questions about the potential to make graduation a more sensory-friendly environment, Nicolakis said she reached out to the Office of Student Accessibility to coordinate sensory resources for the ceremony.

“Everybody we’ve been working with has been really helpful … (and) we’ve had great feedback,” Nicolakis said. “Quinnipiac is really one of those places (that) if you want to do something, you can do it … you just have to step forward and be the one to do it.”

University officials will only designate sensory-friendly space at the graduation ceremonies held on the Mount Carmel Campus because M&T Bank Arena is already a certified “Kulture City Sensory Venue,” Nicolakis said. The non-profit organization, which works to promote accessibility for sensory needs, certifies venues that have the space and resources, such as sensory bags, to make the venue accessible to individuals with sensory needs.

Although university officials have not yet finalized plans for the location of the sensory room, Nicolakis said she hopes that the school will be able to provide sensory bags, which include items like headphones and fidget toys, at the ceremony.

Nicolakis said Kulture City previously provided sensory bags to Quinnipiac to use at M&T Bank Arena.

Lexie Glinbizzi, a graduate public relations student, worked with Nicolakis to add sensory-friendly spaces at graduation.

Glinbizzi has two younger brothers with autism who have been unable to visit her in college because transportation and transition can be difficult for them. Her family has been trying to find a way for her brothers to attend her graduation comfortably.

“It’s been a constant worry for months, and then I kind of sat back and realized nobody should have to worry about this,” Glinbizzi said. “I can’t be the only person with an autistic sibling that feels this way.”

Glinbizzi emphasized the importance of accommodating family members with sensory needs at graduation.

“I want my brothers to see me graduate,” said Glinbizzi. “One of them has even said they want to go to Quinnipiac … these kids could be future Bobcats.”