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To the Class of 2021:

To the Members of the University Community:

First and foremost, I would like to say thank you. This past year has been difficult, and your patience, diligence, and perseverance have played a large role in helping our community remain on campus together. We are proud of your efforts. You should be too!

COVID-19 has challenged our ability to offer the traditional Commencement ceremonies we normally would hold in honor of our graduates. Ideally, we would love to have our regular Commencement in the CAHLC, but this is not our reality this year.

As has been the case with all of our decisions during this pandemic, our first priority is ensuring the safety of our community members and following state COVID-19 regulations. As a result, Commencement plans have to be altered in a way where we can meet our goals of providing an outstanding experience that ensures everyone stays safe and healthy.

A committee has been hard at work since last fall going through multiple plans for what Commencement could look like. During this process, we carefully measured the feasibility of holding an on-campus event with much thought and attention to detail. After all facts were examined, and to provide our graduates and their families the greatest amount of certainty, we have decided to move forward with virtual undergraduate and graduate Commencement ceremonies on May 15 and 16, 2021.

Your virtual Commencement will be very different from what you may have seen in the past. Our goal is to present a high-end, well-produced and engaging experience. There will be live, interactive components blended with traditional and non-traditional pre-recorded portions, which will include videos of students walking across a stage in caps and gowns. Additionally, we will work with our graduates to create a theme, and will keep graduates and families engaged leading up to the ceremonies with contests, interactive videos, social media campaigns, giveaways, and maybe a special surprise or two along the way.

This format also sets the stage for smaller on-campus, pre-Commencement events that meet the Commonwealth’s gathering size requirements for students to be with friends, faculty, and staff. Opportunities for free professional photographs will be included. As state gathering size requirements may change, details about these smaller on-campus events will be announced as we receive input from graduates and get closer to Commencement.

While I realize some may be disappointed about not having an on-campus Commencement, the logistics and uncertainties involved pose too many obstacles to overcome. We also feel the virtual Commencement is the most equitable for all students, acknowledging that some graduates live a great distance away, take their courses solely online, or do not feel comfortable traveling given the pandemic. Ultimately, all things considered, we feel this decision is in the best interest of everyone in our community.

We believe this plan will create new avenues for celebration. Through our combined efforts, Commencement 2021 will be very special. We ask that you join us in our vision to make Commencement a rewarding experience for all. We are committed to celebrating your achievements in every way possible.

It is our Golden Bear spirit that connects us, and together we will make this virtual Commencement one for the history books!

In the coming weeks, we will be launching a Commencement theme and new landing page for graduates and their families. We promise to share specific details about every aspect of the event in the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please email commencement@wne.edu.

Additionally, we want the community to know that we have not forgotten about the Class of 2020. On our Commencement website we have announced to the 2020 graduates that we will be honoring them through multiple celebratory events during Homecoming 2021 on October 1-3, 2021.

Thank you for your dedication and support.

With gratitude,

Robert E. Johnson, Ph.D.

To the Undergraduate, Graduate, and Professional Graduates from the Class of 2020:

We have not forgotten about you! Based on feedback we received from you last year, we have committed to announcing our plans for your celebration only when we feel we can do so with a high degree of certainty that we will not have to postpone the event. Due to the current state of the pandemic and our inability to host large groups on campus, it is not realistic to safely plan a certain event for you this academic year.

We are excited to announce that Homecoming 2021 to take place from October 1-3, 2021 will be in honor of all of our Class of 2020 graduates. We plan to have multiple events throughout the course of this weekend to recognize and honor your accomplishments. This will be a wonderful time for you to return to WNE, re-connect with classmates, faculty, and staff and celebrate while having a lot of fun. We will be sending specific details to each group of graduates as the event gets closer, but for now, SAVE THE DATE and we can’t wait to see you all again in October 2021.