A year after the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted daily life all over the world, the University of Connecticut has taken a major step on the road to normalcy: a plan to celebrate commencement both in-person and remotely this May.
“In the life of a university, there is no occasion more special than commencement, when we recognize the achievements of those receiving degrees, the very essence of a scholarly community,” UConn President Thomas Katsouleas said in a Wednesday email to the University community making the announcement.
The current plan, adopted in consultation with the state Department of Public Health, calls for ceremonies to be held from May 8 through May 12 at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, the home of the UConn football team. As in a typical year, separate ceremonies are planned for each school and college over the five-day period, with the possibility of multiple ceremonies for larger schools to ensure smaller crowd sizes. All the ceremonies will be live-streamed for those who can’t attend in person.
In addition, a virtual ceremony for all Class of 2021 graduates is scheduled to be streamed live on YouTube on Saturday, May 8, at 1 p.m. EDT as an opportunity to bring the entire class together at once. The featured speaker at that ceremony will be U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, who holds multiple graduate degrees from UConn and who taught as an adjunct instructor in the Neag School of Education.
The plans for in-person ceremonies also include the Class of 2020, which celebrated commencement remotely via livestream last year, just weeks after the pandemic shuttered schools, businesses, and university campuses across the country. Details on the plans can be found at the Commencement website. Members of both the Class of 2021 and the Class of 2020 will receive additional messages via the Commencement Listserv emails. That message will have details on how to RSVP and receive guest tickets.
The announcement comes two weeks after a survey was emailed to members of the Class of 2021 and the Class of 2020 to gauge interest in holding in-person ceremonies, with the response being overwhelmingly in favor.
In his message to the UConn community, Katsouleas noted that plans for in-person ceremonies depend on continued progress regarding the pandemic. The ceremonies will follow all relevant state guidelines for health and safety.
Recently, following a drop in the rate of positive COVID-19 tests and a robust rate of vaccination, the state announced it will ease some restrictions that have been in place for nearly a year, with April 2 as the target date for outdoor event venues being allowed to host crowds of up to 10,000.
In his message, Katsouleas said the prospect of in-person commencement ceremonies represents an important symbolic milestone after 12 taxing, stressful months.
“The last year has been an extraordinary test of our character, and I am proud to say that together we showed the world what it means to be a UConn Husky: united in purpose, committed to one another, and looking toward the future,” he wrote.