The Baccalaureate Service is an interfaith, intercultural service celebrating the completion of each undergraduate's academic career, and is the opening event of Commencement week. It features a procession of degree candidates from Barnard and the other undergraduate divisions of the University. The University chaplain, school deans, faculty and administrators also participate. Highlights of the service include hymns and musical selections performed by student musicians and choirs, as well as readings, reflections, and speeches by students.
The Baccalaureate Service is believed to have originated at Oxford University in 1432 when each bachelor was required to deliver a sermon in Latin as part of his academic exercise. Since the earliest universities in this country were founded primarily to educate ministers, the British practice of the Baccalaureate Service was continued.
More information is available on Columbia University's Baccalaureate Service website