A close-up photo of a challenge coin

10th Annual Red, White, and Carolina Blue Graduation Ceremony 

May 6, 2024 |

2024 marks the 10th annual Red, White, and Carolina Blue Graduation Ceremony at UNC-Chapel Hill. Sponsored by the Dean of Students, Carolina Veterans Resource Center, and the Carolina Veterans Alumni Network, the ceremony recognizes graduating veterans, active-duty service members, National Guard, Reservists, and commissioning ROTC cadets. 

The event will be held on May 10 from 10 –11 a.m. in the Frank Porter Graham Student Union. Graduating students will be given honor cords and challenge coins in keeping with military tradition. Commencement speakers include UNC System President Peter Hans, Carolina’s Interim Chancellor Lee Roberts, and Carolina alumna Vivian Redd ‘05, who is now a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army. 

“We want to be able to recognize that if you’re an active-duty military person or a veteran coming here as an adult learner, you’ve faced a set of challenges that’s a little bit different than that of most folks,” said Carolina Veterans Resource Center program director Rob Palermo. “It’s not an easy thing to do, and we want you to get the credit for that.” 

Families, alumni, and other members of the military-connected community are invited to attend to support the graduates. Recognized students will walk on stage to have their names and future plans read aloud.  

“It brings together aspects of the community that don’t have a lot of interaction normally with one another. We have our student veterans' group, but we also have a lot of ROTC cadets that are just going into service. There’s a passing of the torch element to it,” Palermo said.  

The ceremony was first held in 2014 to celebrate military-connected students at UNC-Chapel Hill and to bring visibility to our diverse community. Although there are more than 2,000 military-connected students and hundreds of student veterans, many people don't realize that Carolina has a military-connected population, Palermo said. 

"It’s a good way to spread awareness to people who aren’t used to connecting with that group,” Palermo said. “The ceremony is a way to recognize non-traditional students who live at the intersection of a lot of different student groups.” 

The University has worked to increase programming and opportunities for military-connected students and in 2024 ranked No. 9 in the U.S. News & World Report rankings of best colleges for veterans for being military spouse-friendly. It received a gold ranking in the 2023-2024 Military Friendly Schools survey. 

"The Red, White, and Carolina Blue commencement is emblematic of our University's commitment to military-connected students,” Palermo said. "Ten years of this celebration is a milestone for our community." 

For military-connected students who are not yet graduating, there are a number of resources available on campus. The Carolina Veterans Resource Center, located on south campus, provides a space to interact with other military-connected students. The CVRC also offers trainings and other programming designed to help military-connected students be successful in the University journey.  

Learn more and register to attend the celebration. 

— Payton Wilkins 

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