Update & Commencement Plans

January 28, 2021

Dear students,

As we begin the spring 2021 semester, I write to you today with an important update on our plans for this year’s Commencement. The global pandemic continues to wreak havoc, with the U.S. now reaching 25 million COVID cases and fighting new and more infectious strains of the virus. Though the vaccine affords us all hope for the eventual management of this deadly and costly virus, it will not be safe to hold an in-person Commencement ceremony in May. Above all, we hold the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and their families as our main priority. 

This decision has been made together with the academic deans, senior staff and the Commencement planning team. Though we will suspend our originally planned in-person event, Commencement will be celebrated in the following ways.

  • First, we will host a virtual UArts Commencement on Saturday, May 22, at 10 a.m. EDT. This event will be livestreamed and available to anyone, and will be a participatory event that includes many of the traditions that make UArts’ graduation unique: Awards will be bestowed to students and faculty; student performances will take place; a valedictory address will be given by a graduating student speaker; exceptional alumni will be honored; and we will confer honorary degrees to illustrious artists who will address our graduates. I will share that our honorary degree recipients this year are very special and are extremely excited to join us during this unprecedented time. We will announce those recipients shortly. On Monday, Feb. 1, graduating students will be invited to the 100 Days to Graduation event, Feb. 3, at 11:30 a.m., to learn more about how to prepare for virtual Commencement. I also encourage you to watch last year’s Commencement recap video and visit commencement.uarts.edu to understand some of the ways in which our remote celebration will be uniquely special.  
  • Second, in-person Commencement celebrations will be held when it’s safe and feasible to do so. We know that celebrating remotely is not a substitute for in-person celebrations. With this in mind, plans are already underway to host in-person celebrations by individual schools at a later date for the classes of 2020 and 2021. We promise to celebrate again and in full force the accomplishments of our graduating students. Dates will be shared once we know when we can safely gather again.

Please check your email regularly for the specific instructions that will be shared on how you can participate in Commencement. It will be very important that you respond quickly when instructions are shared, to ensure the success of our celebration.  

Finally, many of you have asked when we will plan to return to campus in person. Our answer is as soon as possible, and we anticipate a fall 2021 in-person return. Decisions about summer programs will be made on a case-by-case basis. Please continue to watch your inboxes for important updates.

Like you, I am exhausted by our remote condition, yet I continue to be astounded by our community’s resilience. As I have previously relayed, I want to remind each of you of why we are here and why we are part of the UArts community. Regardless of our disciplines, I believe we all agree that creative practice matters to the world today, perhaps more than ever. In addition, I believe that after the pandemic, you—the creatives—will lead critical and necessary work for our world. You will challenge entrenched societal assumptions and conventions; you will celebrate risk and exploration; you will establish meaning and understanding of chaos, loss and tragedy; and you—especially our graduating students—will demonstrate the resiliency of human creativity. 

To each of you, I ask that you stay safe, stay healthy and stay strong during this time. While we are remote, all student support services remain available. A full list of campus resources is available at uarts.edu/remotelearning. As we enter this final stretch and await vaccine availability, it’s more important than ever that we do all we can to protect those most vulnerable and halt the destruction of the virus. Please care for those who are with you physically, as well as those with you remotely. I look forward to celebrating with you on May 22.

Best wishes,