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Commencement Town Hall

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Commencement FAQ

Are the plans for the Commencement ceremonies changing with the guidance from May 13 and 14 from the CDC and St. Louis County?

Yes, graduates will now be allowed to invite additional guests to attend their ceremony. See the May 14 message to graduates for additional information.

Will seating on Francis Olympic Field change? 

All ceremony seating on Francis Olympic Field will remain six feet apart to allow for physical distancing. As is done in a typical year, seating will be first come, first served, and after the field seating is full, we will have a standing room only section. We have added additional seats per ceremony to accommodate an increase in guest count.

Will there be enough seating for everyone?

We expect there will be plenty of seating at most ceremonies, even with the increased number of guests. We have added seating based on the new guidance and, while we do not know exactly how many people will be attending, based on our projections, we believe there will be enough seating on Francis Field. After all seats on the field are full, we will open a standing room only section.

Why isn’t there reserved seating for parents and families?

Seating is always open at our Commencement ceremonies, without reserved seating for parents and families. So while the location has changed, this year is no different with regard to seating of guests. With multiple, smaller ceremonies this year, we believe we will have enough seating on Francis Field to accommodate parents, families and friends for each event.

Why can’t graduates walk across the stage? Will graduates be recognized individually in any way during the ceremonies?

Unfortunately, due to the additional time it would take, graduates will not have the opportunity to walk across the stage or be verbally individually recognized. Graduates’ names will be displayed on the screens. It is important to note that the additional time it would take to individually recognize graduates is logistically challenging with the current guidelines and poses additional health risks due to a longer exposure time.

Will graduates still need to present their GradPass and self-screen to check-in on Mudd Field?

No, we will no longer need graduates to present their GradPass. Self-screening is a requirement. Graduates should still plan to check in with Commencement Volunteer Ambassadors on Mudd Field and line-up for the processional.

Will guests still need to present their tickets and self-screening results to check-in at Francis Olympic Field?

No, guests will no longer need to present their tickets to enter Francis Olympic Field. Self-screening is still a requirement.

How early can we arrive prior to ceremony start time?

Guests will be allowed in to Francis Olympic Field 30 minutes before the start of each ceremony. 

Do graduates, guests, faculty, and staff need to wear masks?

Yes. Per guidance from our COVID Monitoring Team and our local health department, both of which advise wearing masks in large group situations, particularly when people’s vaccination status is unknown, we will still require masking for all faculty, staff, graduates and guests in attendance. 

Will seating on Francis Olympic Field change? 

No, ceremony seating will remain six feet apart. Guest seating will be first come, first served, and after the field seating is full, we will have a standing room only section.

Will the ceremonies be combined into one large ceremony for the Classes of 2021 and 2020?

At this late date, unfortunately, we will not be able to combine ceremonies to have one large Commencement.

Will Commencement move back to the Brookings Quadrangle?

At this late date, unfortunately, we will not be able to move the ceremonies to a different location. Ceremonies will remain on Francis Olympic Field. The logistics are already firmly in place for multiple ceremonies and we have significant contractual obligations that we are required to fulfill.

When is the Class of 2021 ceremony, and where will it occur?

Ceremonies for the Class of 2021 will be held Thursday, May 20 and Friday, May 21, 2021. As long as conditions in the region remain favorable, we will celebrate in person on Francis Olympic Field on the Danforth Campus.  

When is the rescheduled Class of 2020 ceremony, and where will it occur?

Ceremonies for the Class of 2020 will be held Sunday, May 30. As long as conditions in the region remain favorable, we will celebrate in person on Francis Olympic Field on the Danforth Campus. 

What will the in-person ceremonies look like?

Commencement will look and feel very different this year. In order to celebrate our graduates safely, we will host multiple, smaller ceremonies for each class. There will be a maximum of 500 graduates at each ceremony. All seating will be arranged to accommodate physical distancing. Graduates will not cross the stage, shake hands, or receive diplomas during the ceremonies, and graduate students will not be hooded. With the exception of the faculty marshals, faculty will only be invited to attend virtually. All graduates, guests, and staff will to wear face masks at all times.

Will guests be permitted at the ceremonies?

Yes, and with the recent updated guidance from the CDC and St. Louis County, we are opening up guest attendance. Graduates are now able to invite as many guests as they would like to attend their ceremony.

Can I attend the ceremony in person if I have not received the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. However, all students and guests are asked to significantly limit their interactions with others 14 days prior to the Commencement ceremonies.  This includes staying at home as much as possible, wearing a mask if you must be in contact with anyone outside your home, and keeping at least six feet of distance between yourself and others outside of your family.

Please don’t travel if you’re sick. If you have any symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, new or worsening cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat or loss of taste or smell), stay home. Bring masks and hand sanitizer with you and use both while traveling.

Wear a mask at all times in airports, on planes, or in any closed space with other people. If you have access to a disposable surgical mask (also known as an isolation mask), consider wearing one during flights, or while riding trains or buses. If you are flying, double check to make sure you choose an airline that requires and enforces masking for everyone on board. Same with train or bus travel – be sure to check the policies of the transportation companies you choose and only travel with one that requires masks. If you are seated near a passenger who is not wearing a mask, ask to be moved to another seat. 

Use hand sanitizer after touching surfaces in airports or other transportation hubs. Please do your best to avoid gathering with groups of people, paying particular attention to boarding areas, information desks, and other places where a crowd may form.

CDC travel guidance

CDC mask guidance

If I can’t return to celebrate in person this year, can I participate at a future ceremony?

Yes, there will be an opportunity for you to participate in a future ceremony if you wish to do so.

Will I be required to do a self-screening before visiting campus?

Yes, all graduates, guests, staff, and vendors will be required to complete the Washington University in St. Louis self-screening process before visiting campus. Visitors – https://visitorscreening.wustl.edu/ students, faculty, staff – http://screening.wustl.edu/

Can I still order regalia?

Unfortunately, the deadline to order regalia was April 5, 2021.

Is it too late to file my Intent to Graduate in order to participate in these ceremonies?

The Intent to Graduate deadline has passed, and Commencement registration is now closed.

How will the Class of 2021 receive diplomas this academic year?

The registrar’s office will coordinate your diploma shipment once your degree is conferred by the Board of Trustees and Chancellor Martin.  Please pay careful attention to the information below to ensure delivery of your Diploma.

  • Diplomas will be shipped to your Diploma Mailing Address in WebSTAC.
  • Address changes made after Monday, May 17, 2021 at 5:00pm CST will not be captured for diploma shipments. 
    • If you do not have Diploma Mailing Address listed, your Diploma will be shipped to your Home Address listed in WebSTAC

The university has recently transitioned to a new diploma vendor and beginning with Spring 2021 graduates, offers certified electronic diplomas to all graduates along with your paper credential.  Your certified electronic diploma will be ordered on your behalf and will take approximately 5-8 days to receive.  Instructions on how to obtain and download your diploma will be sent to your @wustl.edu email address.  Your paper diploma will arrive approximately 2-4 weeks after commencement and you will receive notification once your diploma has been shipped.

Any additional questions or comments should be sent to diplomaservices@wustl.edu along with your student ID number.

Will Reunion celebrations take place on the Danforth Campus this year?

All in-person Reunion celebrations have transitioned to virtual. For more information please visit here.

Will there be in-person class parties or school post-ceremony receptions?

We are unable to host in-person class parties and school-based post-ceremony receptions. Due to St. Louis County health precautions, we cannot provide food and beverage associated with these ceremonies. The safety and well being of our WashU community remains our highest priority.

Will faculty and staff be invited to attend in person?

Faculty and staff will be invited to attend virtually. Staff are encouraged to participate in volunteer roles. Please watch for a communication from the Commencement Office for more information.

Is there a way for Trustees, faculty, family members, and students unable to attend in person to engage with the in-person ceremonies?

All faculty, staff, students, families and friends of the Washington University community are invited to share video and photo messages of congratulations and support to the Class of 2021.

If I do not need one or more of my Commencement tickets, can I sell or give them to someone else?

No. Tickets are non-transferable. All guests must be registered for contact tracing purposes, and guest IDs will be checked. St. Louis County has approved a maximum of two guests be permitted per graduate. Graduates must be in attendance for their guests to be admitted.

Ceremony/Event Details

What will the ceremonies look like, as far as program components and timeline?

Each ceremony, including the procession and recession, will run 90 minutes long. These ceremonies are a combination of components from the university ceremony and the school recognition ceremonies. They will have live and virtual elements. The full schedule of events is available on the Commencement website.

Will the speaker be live?

The speaker for our 2021 ceremonies will not be live on stage, in part because there are 8 ceremonies over the span of two days. If you have not yet seen the announcement, our speaker for the Class of 2021 is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The 2020 speaker will be live on stage for all three ceremonies. Our speaker for the Class of 2020 is Class of 2020 is Julie Gerberding. Chancellor Martin announced both speakers in video messages to the community.

Will the ceremonies be available to watch online?

Yes, all ceremonies will be available to watch live and recorded. You can watch the ceremonies on the Commencement website.

Will graduates who are not present on campus be recognized?

There will be an opportunity for graduates attending virtually to participate. Please keep an eye out for additional communications about this from the Commencement office.

What is the plan if there is inclement weather?

As usual, commencement will be rain or shine. In the event of severe weather, we plan to delay start times when possible. We have worked with the Emergency Management department to create a plan for evacuation in case of sudden severe weather after graduates and guests are already on campus.

Will campus buildings be open?

Unfortunately, as many of you know, many of our buildings are only accessible by card swipe due to our COVID safety restrictions. They will remain closed for Commencement, but rest assured, there will be restrooms available for use.

Will the bookstore be open?

The bookstore will be open from 7:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. on Thursday, May 20; 7:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Friday, May 21 and 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Sunday, May 30.  Guests that enter the bookstore will be required to follow the standard COVID safety requirements that we’ve all become familiar with during the pandemic, such as masking and maintaining physical distance.  Please visit the bookstore website for more information on capacity and hours, or to shop online. 

Why can’t people congregate on campus before or after the ceremonies, especially if they are outdoors?

It’s important to maintain distance, stay outdoors, wear masks and avoid congregating to get as close to zero risk as possible for the safety of our whole community, including those who have not been vaccinated or are immunocompromised. We appreciate your cooperation with this policy to keep our most vulnerable safe.

Event Logistics

Parking

What is the parking plan? How will I know where to park?

In your event confirmation, you received an assigned parking garage. Please plan to continue to park in your assigned garage.

Photography

The Commencement team has secured complimentary professional photographers for all ceremony days. If you indicated your interest in a professional photo appointment, the commencement office has contacted you. In addition, there will be self-serve stations with fun backdrops across campus where graduates are welcome to take photos with their registered guests.

Can my friends and I meet in between ceremonies to take group photos on campus grounds?

We encourage graduates to sign up for photo appointments that work for those with whom they would like to take photos. As a reminder, masks should only be removed for photos with members of your household.

Will it be possible for my fellow graduates and I to come onto campus the day before the ceremony to take our own group photos? How will friends that have different times be able to take pictures?

Students are welcome and encouraged to take photos on campus with their fellow graduates on non-ceremony days, keeping in mind the campus visitor policy and safety policies, including masks and physical distancing.

Regalia

What is the plan for pick-up and drop-off of regalia for the Class of 2020? What about 2021?

For 2021 students, regalia will be available to pick-up starting on Monday, May 17 through Wednesday, May 19 from 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. at Mudd Field tent on the Danforth Campus.  Graduates may also pick-up regalia on the day of the ceremony starting at 7:00 a.m.  Regalia must be returned on Friday, May 21 by 9:00 p.m. 

For 2020 students, regalia will be available to pick-up starting on Friday, May 28 through Saturday, May 29 from 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. at Mudd Field tent on the Danforth Campus.  Graduates may also pick-up regalia on the day of the ceremony starting at 7:00 a.m.  Regalia must be returned on Sunday, May 30 by 6:00 pm. 

For medical students, regalia will be available to pick-up starting Monday, May 17 from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the WUSM Campus Store. On Friday, May 21 at 3pm, any remaining regalia will be moved to the Mudd Field tent on the Danforth Campus.

Regalia can be returned at Mudd Field tent or at the Busch Hall tent and Jubel Hall tent, located on the west end of campus. 

How much does regalia cost? Where can I find this information?

The deadline for regalia orders was April 5, 2021. For more information on regalia costs, please visit https://commencement.wustl.edu/regalia/.

Tickets

How do we change the name for a ticket?

The April 30, 2021 deadline for name changes has now passed.

Do we have the option to move from in-person to virtual? If so, is there a deadline for this change?

Absolutely. Please let us know about your change of plans at commencement@wustl.edu as soon as possible so we can continue to monitor our attendance numbers within our current guidelines.