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Salem College


Students holding candles

Founded in 1772, Salem College boasts a rich history and is proud to offer students numerous opportunities throughout the year to participate in its many time-honored traditions.

Taking part in these activities connects current students with generations of alumnae who have come before them and connect them with history and community. We believe students will enjoy knowing that they, too, are part of a long line of strong, confident women who value and celebrate tradition.

Our Salem Traditions

Salem student signing the honor code

Honor Code Signing

During Fall Orientation, all new, incoming students participate in an Honor Code Ceremony wherein the Honor Code is presented to the President and signed by each new, incoming student. The Honor Code is then hung and displayed in Main Hall to symbolize the commitment that each Salem student makes to abiding by the Honor Code.

Salem sisters house

History Walk

During the Honor Code Signing, new, incoming students walk to the Single Sisters’ House for a brief ceremony and introduction to the history of Salem Academy and College. This is a symbolic beginning of one’s journey as a Salem student. Students share a similar walk as seniors during Senior Week to symbolize the conclusion of their Salem journey.

Salem College student with classmates

Opening Convocation

Held in Hanes Auditorium on the day after Fall Semester classes start in August, Opening Convocation is the formal opening of the academic year. Classes process to the ceremony behind their class banners, Seniors wear caps and gowns and traditionally wear funny or outrageous shoes.

Salem students connecting with a professor

Big Sib/Little Sib

Traditional age first-year students (under age 23) have the option to receive a “Big” in August before Fall Fest. Bigs serve as mentors and introduce their Littles to life at Salem. Transfer students also have the option to receive a “Big” or to be a “Big,” depending on their class standing. Contact Big/Little co-chairs or the Office of Orientation, Student Engagement, and Intercultural Education ( if you have any questions.

Salem College Fall Festival

Fall Fest

This September day of competition between the classes begins with a breakfast spirit rally and themed decorating contest in the Refectory. It continues with a parade contest at Bryant Hall patio and concludes with a song and skit extravaganza in Hanes Auditorium. A true celebration of the Salem Spirit! Listen for the cheering to begin in early fall.

Classes are suspended that day.

Salem College students walking on campus in front of student life building

Thanksgiving Dinner

President McGee carves the turkey for the campus at this festive Thanksgiving Feast.

Salem College community members holding candles

Candle Trimming

In November, the Office of the Chaplain sponsors a gathering for seniors to trim candles with red crepe paper for the Christmas Candlelight Service.

Salem Community member holding cadles

Christmas Candlelight Service

This long-standing December Salem tradition honors the Moravian heritage, while being inclusive for people of all faith traditions. The Salem Choral groups and School of Music perform, and class presidents lead Holiday readings, with a brief message offered by the Chaplain. Hundreds of friends of the College attend this annual event in Hanes Auditorium, which culminates with the lighting of Moravian candles.

Salem cookies

Holiday Dinner

To kick off exams in December, Dining Services provides a holiday feast for the Salem community.

Tea and scones and cake

Off Campus Association High Tea

The Off Campus Association (OCA) sponsors a high tea on the last day of classes for the fall semester in December. Members of the OCA bake desserts and other treats to share with faculty, staff, and students. Established by commuter students in the 1970s, this tradition provides an opportunity for residential students and commuter students to celebrate the end of the semester together.

Salem College students on the stairs

Sophomore/Senior Banquet

In April, the sophomore class hosts a special dinner and program for all students to honor their Big Sibling class before they graduate!

Student at the podium speaking

Susan E. Pauly Celebration Of Academic Excellence

Held in April, this annual celebration showcases student work across the disciplines and features new faculty research. Classes are canceled on this day so that students, faculty, and staff may attend these important and thought-provoking panels, performances, and presentations that spotlight undergraduate academic excellence.

Salem College special celebration

Leadership Banquet

As part of the Susan E. Pauly Celebration of Academic Excellence, the annual student leadership awards banquet replaces dinner that evening in the Refectory. Students are recognized for outstanding achievement in the areas of leadership, scholarship, and service.

Salem College graduates

Founders Day Senior Traditions Walk

On the day of Founders Day Convocation, seniors robe and meet in front of Main Hall at 7:00 A.M., accompanied by the Chaplain, President, and the Moravian brass band for a walk to the class tree. This event symbolizes the beginning of the Commencement events. A special breakfast is served in the Refectory.

Salem College students at graduation

Founders Day Convocation

Founders Day Convocation is held in April in Hanes Auditorium. Seniors robe and wear funny glasses for the event!

Evening vespers event at Salem College

Honors Convocation

The ceremony marking the formal end of the academic year is held in Hanes Auditorium on the last week of classes in May. Seniors wear graduation robes and funny or outrageous hats. Awards are given for academic achievement.

Classes process to the ceremony behind their class banners.

Salem College students at graduation

Senior Commencement Week

The senior commencement week includes the Ceremony of Names and Commencement.

  • The Ceremony of Names: A ceremony which doubles as a rehearsal for Commencement and a ceremonial opportunity for students to provide the Dean of the College’s pronunciation of their names.
  • Commencement: Commencement is held on the first Saturday after the end of exams. Location for the event will be announced each year. Graduates are required to robe for the Commencement service.

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