Commencement cords and stoles, decoded

By Megan Bradshaw on May 20, 2019

Ever wonder what the cords and sashes around graduates’ necks mean?

TU graduates with banners
TU Commencement banner carriers display the variety of cords and stoles graduates wear during the ceremonies.

Commencement is a graduate’s day of celebration, recognizing the hard work and growth achieved during his or her time at Towson University.

Honor cords and stoles are a Commencement tradition, with colors and designs designating a specific achievement or award. Braided cords are historically intended to recognize academic honor societies, academic student organizations and military service or military-affiliated status.  

In recent years, braided cords also were worn by degree candidates to signify association with college, social or cause organizations, such as fraternities and sororities. Stoles—whose origins date back to medieval clergy—identify students as part of groups or organizations. 

So what do the ones at TU’s graduation ceremonies mean?

Cords 

College of Business and Economics

Beta Gamma Sigma—royal blue and gold 

College of Education

Kappa Delta Pi—purple and green

College of Fine Arts and Communication

Department of Communication Studies Pi Kappa Delta—purple and green

Department of Dance National Honors Society of Dance Arts—light blue and white

College of Health Professions

Department of Health Science Eta Sigma Gamma Health Education and Promotion Honor Society—green and gold

Department of Interprofessional Health Studies (Gerontology) Sigma Phi Omega—blue and gold cord or medallion

Department of Interprofessional Health Studies (Healthcare Management) Upsilon Delta Phi—red and blue

Department of Nursing Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honor Society—lavender and white

Department of Nursing TU Student Nursing Association—blue and white

Department of Occupational Therapy and Occupational Science Phi Theta Epsilon—royal dark blue and gold

College of Liberal Arts

Department of Foreign Languages Gamma Kappa Alpha—red, white and green

Department of Foreign Languages Pi Delta Phi—red, white and blue

Department of Foreign Languages Sigma Delta Pi—red and yellow

Department of Geography Gamma Theta Upsilon—pale blue, brown and gold

Department of History Phi Alpha Theta—blue, gray and white

Department of Political Science Pi Sigma Alpha—red and white

Department of Psychology Psi Chi—gray and blue

Department of Psychology Honors Thesis—gold

Honors College 

Medallion on a black and gold ribbon

Jess and Mildred Fisher College of Science and Mathematics

Department of Biology Beta Beta Beta—red and green

Military and Veterans Center

Military-affiliated students include active, reserve, guard, veteran, retired, dependent, spouses and ROTC cadets—red, white and blue

Other Organizations

Delta Alpha Pi International Honor Society—blue and gold

Greek Life organizations—determined by each organization

National Residence Hall Honorary—blue and white

National Society of Collegiate Scholars—burgundy and gold

National Society of Leadership and Success—black and white

Tau Sigma Transfer Student Honor Society—maroon and gold

Undergraduate Research Club—black, white and silver

University Residence Government—black, gold and white

Stoles

Athletics—primarily black with gold trim, the athletics logo and “student-athlete” embroidered 

Center for Student Diversity

  • Black Student Union—kente stoles that are black, red, yellow and green
  • LatinX Student Development—primarily gold with black, green, white and red accents
  • LGBTQ+ Student Development—lavender with white trim
  • SAGE Mentors—black, white and gold

Department of Nursing Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honor Society—purple stole with organization insignia 

Greek Life organizations—determined by each organization 

National Society of Collegiate Scholars—burgundy and gold

Student Government Association (SGA)—black stole with gold trim, SGA insignia

Towson Opportunities in STEM (TOPS)—gold with program insignia

Wearing your regalia with pride at Commencement? Share your photos on social media with #TUProud this week!