What You Need to Know about Commencement Week

From speaker information to where to park to tips on where to eat, find out all the details of GW’s signature event celebrating its graduating students.

May 15, 2023

Commencement Week 2023

Students celebrate graduation at last year's Commencement on the National Mall. (William Atkins/GW Today)

On Sunday, 5,000 George Washington University students will punctuate their time at the university with an exclamation point, as their triumphs will be recognized at Commencement on the National Mall. GW students and 24,000 of their guests will celebrate this momentous occasion on the grounds of the Washington Monument.

GW Today has compiled a guide to make the visit easier for friends and family making pilgrimage to Washington, D.C., for the Commencement Week festivities.

Planning your visit

GW is located in the heart of Washington, D.C., and within walking distance to some of the nation’s most iconic sights—including the White House and Lincoln Memorial. The university is close to three major airports, including Ronald Reagan Washington National, Dulles International and Baltimore Washington International, as well as Union Station.

Metro, taxi, rideshare and Capital Bikeshare are available to help you navigate Foggy Bottom and the National Mall.

For those who have not yet booked, there are many options for lodging across the D.C. area, including some options that are close to Foggy Bottom and the National Mall. Be sure to ask any hotel if they offer a discount for the weekend of GW’s Commencement.

Check out GW Today’s Foggy Bottom guide for the best places to eat, relax or explore.

Individual school celebrations

All schools and colleges will host a celebratory experience for their graduating students. Graduating students will receive individual recognition, including having their names announced, walking across the stage and having an individual photo taken. During these celebrations, they will hear from school leaders and other prestigious speakers.

These ceremonies run from Thursday through Monday, May 22. Please visit the Commencement Week Schedule for dates, times and locations of school and college celebrations.

Senior Class Toast

All Class of 2023 undergraduate seniors are invited to this celebratory reception welcoming them into the GW Alumni Association. The event, running from noon to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at the University Student Center, includes light refreshments, a champagne toast and brief remarks from GW alumni and student leaders. Doors open at 11:50 a.m. Pre-registration for this event is now closed, but those who haven't pre-registered will be able to register at the door. 



The Commencement on the National Mall ceremony begins at 10:30 a.m. Graduates and guests (up to six per graduate) must be seated by 10:15 a.m.

Staging area

The stage will be located at the base of the Washington Monument on the northeast corner at the intersection of 15th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. A graduate entrance will be open from 9-10:15 a.m. on the south side of the stage on 15th Street (across from the National Museum of African American History and Culture).  Graduates may also use the entrance at the base of the monument.

Guest entrances are near the intersection of Constitution Avenue and 16th Street NW and near the base of the Washington Monument.

Commencement Map 2023

Water stations

Graduates and guests should bring a reusable water bottle to the ceremony. There are several water stations available at the National Mall Commencement site, as seen on the map above.


There is no reservable, dedicated ADA parking on the National Mall. Limited publicly accessible parking spaces are available. Privately-owned parking garages are located within about half a mile of the Commencement site. Parking fees vary by location.

However, there is an ADA drop-area located on the south side of Constitution Avenue between 15th and 17th streets NW. To gain access to the drop-off area, students and guests may pick up a placard for their vehicle from the Welcome Center help desk located in the University Student Center, which opens noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday, May 17; 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Thursday, May 18; 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, May 19, and Saturday, May 20; and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, May 21.


Those taking the orange, blue or silver line from Foggy Bottom to Commencement on the National Mall should exit at the Smithsonian station. Riders taking the Red Line can transfer to the orange, silver or blue line at Metro Center to the Smithsonian stop, while those taking the Green or Yellow Line can do so at the L’Enfant Plaza station.


  • The Commencement site will have large screens with closed captioning. A reserved area near the front of the stage is available for those who need American sign language interpretation.
  • The National Mall ceremony site is covered by uneven plastic flooring that may be slippery in the event of precipitation. Guests should use caution when walking on this surface or any of the surrounding areas.
  • Wheelchairs on the National Mall are available for limited, short-term use and cannot be dedicated to individual guests. Guests may rent wheelchairs and scooters if they need them for an extended period and are encouraged to secure a mobility device that supports their needs before the event. Providers include Scootaround, Express Mobility Services and OrthoMobility Rental.
  • Collapsible strollers are allowed at Commencement on the National Mall in the guest seating area if they do not block the aisles.

Speakers and Honorary Degrees

Renowned social justice lawyer and human rights advocate Bryan Stevenson will deliver the GW 2023 Commencement address. The founder of the Equal Justice Initiative has been representing capital defendants and death row prisoners since 1985.

He is the author and subject of The New York Times bestseller Just Mercy, which was later adapted into the 2019 motion-picture film in which actor Michael B. Jordan portrayed Stevenson on the big screen. The storyline recounted Stevenson’s work exonerating Walter McMillian (played by Jamie Foxx in the movie), who had been unjustly convicted and sentenced to death.

Senior criminal justice major Giselle Elisa Garcia, who is double minoring in psychology and STEM teaching, is the student speaker. She has worked as an intern and field organizer for multiple political campaigns and organizations, including Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey; Carolyn Bordeaux for Congress; Alianza, the first Afro LatinX organization at GW; and LatinoJustice Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. Garcia has also worked with the GW Teach program, teaching second and 11th grade science classes at local schools.

Stevenson will also receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws. Mike Milken will receive a Doctor of Science at the ceremony to honor his efforts in accelerating the quality and impact of the Milken Institute School of Public Health and enhancing human health and education globally.

In addition, Muriel Bowser, mayor of the District of Columbia, will receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service at the noon Columbian College of Arts and Sciences celebration on May 20. She will be recognized for her groundbreaking role as the first African-American woman to be elected to three full terms as mayor of a U.S. city.

President Mark S. Wrighton will also award the President’s Medal, the highest honor GW’s president can bestow, to three GW faculty members: Mary Ellsberg, founding director of the Global Women’s Institute; Walter Reich, Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Professor of International Affairs; and Frank Sesno, professor and director of strategic initiatives in the School of Media and Public Affairs.

Celebrating online

Commencement on the National Mall will be live streamed on the web and social media on the day of the event. Viewing options will be posted on the Commencement homepage on the day of the event.

School and college celebrations will be live streamed on the web and available on their Commencement pages on the day of the event.