Commencement to be held virtually with later in-person ceremony ‘when it is safe to gather’

Media Credit: Photo Illustration by Grace Hromin | Staff Photographer

Administrators said they will recognize Class of 2020 and Class of 2021 graduates in person "when it is safe to do so."

Students will graduate virtually this May and officials will invite the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021 to in-person Commencement ceremonies on the National Mall at a later date, according to a release Thursday.

University President Thomas LeBlanc, Provost Brian Blake and Vice President for Student Affairs Cissy Petty said they will host the in-person ceremonies when “it is safe to do so,” but the University-wide and school-based commencement ceremonies will be held online this spring as the coronavirus pandemic persists. The University will also stylize the Foggy Bottom Campus with commencement branding and mail celebratory packages to graduates, according to the release.

“We have heard loud and clear that the community’s top priority is having a University-wide Commencement on the National Mall, even if it must take place at some point in the future, at a time when it is safe to gather,” officials said in the release.

D.C. has remained in Phase Two of its reopening plan for more than eight months, which caps outdoor gatherings at 25 people.

Officials announced in October that they did not anticipate being able to hold Commencement in person, but they said in February they were exploring options for “any in-person component” that could be held safely and began conducting outreach to the University community about the option.

Administrators said the virtual programming will include a GW-wide virtual celebration on May 16 in addition to virtual celebrations held by all schools and colleges, which will include individual recognition for graduates.

“The celebration will be an exciting, engaging, ‘Only at GW’ event that honors tradition and implements some of the great ideas we received from our graduating students, families and alumni,” officials said.

Students will receive their diplomas in the mail about eight to 10 weeks after the virtual ceremony, according to the Commencement website.

Administrators will also mail this year graduates a “celebration box” that will include GW-branded items, and officials are still planning other in-person and virtual aspects of commencement.

“This was not a decision made lightly, and we appreciate the thoughtful feedback from graduates about how to celebrate this momentous occasion within the ongoing public health constraints of the pandemic,” officials said. “We look forward to honoring our graduates in May virtually and to the day when we can gather in person to celebrate the Class of 2021 and 2020. Until then, stay safe and well.”

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