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Fresno Pacific makes history with graduation at Chukchansi Park

Fresno Pacific University made history on Saturday by moving its graduation off campus for the first time.
May 10, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
Fresno Pacific University made history on Saturday by moving its graduation off campus for the first time.

For the first time in university history, 340 FPU graduates walked across the commencement stage at Chukchansi Park.

"It's exciting. There's more space; I can invite more people," said Amanda Rodriguez, who graduated with her bachelor's degree in English.

Rodriguez says she's thrilled for the opportunity to invite her entire family to celebrate her accomplishments.

"It's been a great journey, and I'm just excited to finish it and continue on in life," she said.

The university says enrollment a few years ago hovered around 2,500. In the past five years, it estimates the student population grew by 1,000 -- due in part to its degree completion programs and satellite campuses across the Valley.

"That's been a huge area of growth for us as we've reached out throughout the Valley. There are a lot of people in the Valley that have a couple of years of college, but they went to community college, but they never got their bachelor's degree; they want to do that now," said Wayne Steffen with Fresno Pacific University.

And with the move from the tiny campus to the large Downtown Fresno stadium, attendance is really no longer limited.

"Ticket numbers are really unlimited. We didn't have to say you can only bring five people or 10 people; they can bring as many people as they want," said Steffen.

Of course, the move to a baseball stadium wouldn't be complete without full concessions.

Noritta Riley is celebrating her nephew's master's degree and says she loves the venue change.

"That's really awesome. I think that's exciting. I think that the atmosphere is just joyous and with the concession stands, we can eat, too," said Riley.

Fresno Pacific University says this change just came about during this school year as the university realized it's outgrown the outdoor space on campus that used to hold the graduation ceremony.

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