Case Study: How MarchingOrder Reduced the Workload for the Short-Staffed Penn School of Social Policy & Practice Team

UPenn grad cheering

The Story of Penn School of Social Policy & Practice

The Penn School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2) is a graduate school within the University of Pennsylvania, a private, Ivy League research university located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and is nationally recognized, ranking #11 for “Best Grad School Social Work Program” by U.S. News & World Report in 2022.

The school has a diverse student population which includes students from all around the world. Approximately 360 students graduated during their spring ceremony on May 14, 2022.

In recent years, the school previously held virtual graduation ceremonies, due to COVID-19, but again held a live ceremony in 2022 and moved to a different venue than it had used before. Spring 2022 would also mark the first time the ceremony would be held at The Palestra—the nation’s oldest major college basketball arena.

With the return to a live ceremony format and a move to an iconic venue, the pressure was high. The team needed to focus their limited resources and master the intricacies of a new (and old) venue to deliver an exceptional experience for their graduates.

UPenn graduate cheering

Staffing Shake-Ups & Partnering With MarchingOrder

During the planning of the school’s spring 2022 ceremony, the planning team became short-staffed, which left only the associate dean, Dr. Jennifer Jones Clinkscales, DSW, LCSW, remaining to plan and execute graduation.

Dr. Clinkscales quickly realized that, with so many things that needed to be completed, executing the spring 2022 ceremony would be a daunting task for one person and that help was needed.

The dean had seen the success that other schools within the Penn system had enjoyed with MarchingOrder, so they turned to us for help.

How the Penn School of Social Policy & Practice Used MarchingOrder’s Solutions

The school used MarchingOrder’s ceremony management, name pronunciation and display tools for their spring 2022 ceremony.

MarchingOrder Assistant

Using the MarchingOrder Assistant website to streamline their ceremony planning provided easy access to the all the tools they needed in one place—including tasks and timelines, graduate data tools and a communication manager for emailing grads. The team could finally retire their messy web of different shared drives and platforms and work in an organized, centralized space.

As Bryanna Bonner, the school’s Associate Director of Student Affairs explained, “…this is a different ceremony than we’re used to. This is more organized than we’re used to. I like this feeling compared to the feeling we had 2019 and before.”

Name Pronunciation

MarchingOrder’s Say-It-Right allows graduates to provide their correct name pronunciations when they register for the ceremony. Ceremony name readers could familiarize themselves with the names by reading the phonetics and listening to the name recordings prior to the ceremony, conveniently on the MarchingOrder Assistant website.

Name Display

The MarchingOrder Director software was used to display graduate names, honors and awards on the venue’s large video screens precisely as each graduate walked across the stage to receive their diplomas.

UPenn graduate with diploma

The Results

MarchingOrder delivered an amazing graduation ceremony for the Penn School of Social Policy & Practice by providing all the tools and expert support that their team needed. Our solutions improved ceremony organization, reduced the team’s workload, created a personalized experience for graduates and helped faculty name readers smoothly and accurately pronounce graduates’ names.

“Working with [MarchingOrder] gave us 100% confidence. Commencement looked impossible—it really did: One, coming back from the pandemic for our first in-person commencement in a long time; having out first in-person commencement in a new location, because our school had grown; and then not having the staff that’s used to planning it… it was a daunting task. Then, when MarchingOrder swept in—it was just a sense of relief,” Bonner explained.

Sharing the Workload

“Commencement is a task. There are so many moving parts, there are so many different things that you have to do. So, having MarchingOrder really took a big load off our plate,” Bonner said.

MarchingOrder allowed Penn to preserve their resources and focus their energy, which lessened their stress on graduation day and allowed them to enjoy the ceremony and share the moment with their graduates.

The school’s dedicated Client Success Manager, Kim Olson, provided support, direction and insight for the team throughout the entire process.

“Kim was always so helpful in sending reminders; always being available if we had any questions. We were able to just view examples of things. Kim was great at sharing examples of how someone else would have organized it; how someone else set their ceremony up. So that was great!” Bonner said.

UPenn graduate smiling

Recognizing Their Graduates With Accurate Name Pronunciation

By scanning printed graduate cards to cue name announcement and display, Penn eliminated the need for graduates to line up in a preset order.

“It was beautifully organized; we weren’t sweating, ‘Ok, are you in the right order?’ It didn’t matter if they were out of order because they had the card and all they had to do was scan it. We didn’t have to worry that our faculty knew this student was next and that student was lined up. It was that part where all they had to do was stand, bring their cards and we got to stand back and relax,” Bonner explained.

And by using Say-It-Right to rehearse proper name pronunciations, faculty readers felt prepared and relaxed reading graduates’ names, resulting in a more confident, accurate performance.

Customized Name Display

MarchingOrder’s name display solutions allowed the team to create a customized, personalized experience for their graduates.
“We were able to organize where we wanted those screens to pop up; how we wanted our information displayed. I had a lot more freedom than I thought I would and a lot more choices than I expected, which was great, because then we were able to tailor it to really be representative of our school and display it in a way that we wanted it to be,” explained Bonner.

Watch the Ceremony Video

How Can MarchingOrder Help You?

The Penn School of Social Policy & Practice began planning their next MarchingOrder ceremony soon after their Spring ceremony.
“I would recommend MarchingOrder to everyone. I’m already working with MarchingOrder. I already sent Kim an email to say, ‘hey, I know commencement not until May, it’s October, but we’re ready. I want to make sure we have the opportunity to pick up new services, so I’m really excited,” Bonner declared.

Contact us at or (888) 988-0346 to learn how we can take some of workload off you as you plan your next ceremony.



Read more case studies:

How NYU Tandon Used MarchingOrder’s Live Ceremony Tools for Their Ceremony at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center