With its inaugural commencement ceremony held in 2003, California State University Channel Islands launched a number of commencement traditions, including:
- The sounding of a conch shell by a Chumash elder, which signals the University’s recognition that it is building on the knowledge base of the indigenous people who first inhabited the site on which CSU Channel Islands now stands.
- The striking of a ship’s bell by a staff member of the campus community. The bell, which was also rung during the University’s opening ceremony in August, will again be loaned to the University for commencement by another community member, the Naval Base of Ventura County.
- A welcome in two languages, which symbolizes the University’s commitment to graduating students with multicultural and international perspectives.
- The graduates passing through an arch, which symbolizes the students finishing their studies and leaving the University — which is filled with dramatic, Mission-style archways — and entering a new phase of their lives.
- The carrying of the University Mace during the ceremony by the Academic Senate Chair. The mace, carved by local artists from native walnut, is topped by two dolphins dancing on the waves in recognition of the legend about the Chumash crossing the Rainbow Bridge to get to the mainland. (The dolphin is the University mascot.) The mace was presented to the University's president, Dr. Richard R. Rush, by the 13 founding faculty members of CSU Channel Islands.
- The peeling of the landmark Bell Tower carillon bells in the center of campus after the final degree is conferred.