The University of Virginia will hold separate, in-person Final Exercises celebrations for the classes of 2020 and 2021 this May.
Both will begin with the traditional procession down the Lawn from the Rotunda. New this year, the celebrations for the Class of 2021 will end with degree conferral ceremonies in Scott Stadium (degrees for the Class of 2020 were conferred last spring), in order to adhere to state directives on the sizes of graduation gatherings because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Each student can invite two guests, who will be able to view a live stream of the Lawn procession and watch the degree conferral ceremonies while seated in Scott Stadium. The events themselves will be livestreamed as well.
Due to the ongoing pandemic, the Scott Stadium ceremonies will be the only in-person graduation ceremonies offered this year.
Ceremonies and Walking the Lawn for the Class of 2020: May 16
In a communication sent Friday morning to members of the Class of 2020, UVA President Jim Ryan wrote: “In light of Governor Northam’s recently revised guidance on graduation ceremonies, I am thrilled to announce that we are now able to offer you the opportunity to attend a special in-person ceremony on May 16, 2021, dedicated to the Class of 2020.”
The University is inviting members of the Class of 2020 to RSVP for the May 16 celebration. A procession from the Rotunda and down the Lawn will begin at 10 a.m. and end at Scott Stadium, where President Jim Ryan will address the class. Each member of the class will be allowed two guests for the Scott Stadium ceremony.
UVA is still also planning to hold a special, reunion-type event in the summer of 2022 for the Class of 2020, which had its graduation moved online last May because of the pandemic.
Ceremonies and Walking the Lawn for the Class of 2021: May 21-23
The University will hold five individual ceremonies for the Class of 2021 from May 21 to May 23, grouping schools together on individual days. Students and guests can stay up-to-date with more information on timing as it becomes available on the Finals website. Graduating students will be allowed two guests for their school’s ceremony in Scott Stadium.
The broad schedule is as follows:
Friday, May 21
Students graduating from the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, the School of Education and Human Development, the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing will be celebrated Friday morning.
In the afternoon, celebrations will be held for students graduating from the schools of Architecture and Data Science, the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the School of Continuing and Professional Studies.
Saturday, May 22
Because the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is UVA’s largest school, it will be separated into two groups, with one being celebrated in a morning ceremony and the other in the afternoon.
Sunday, May 23
On Sunday morning, students from the McIntire School of Commerce, the Darden School of Business and the School of Law will make their procession down the Lawn and receive their degrees in a ceremony at Scott Stadium.
In a communication delivered Friday morning to members of the Class of 2021, Ryan wrote, “I hope that these plans for in-person graduation activities come as welcome news to you and your families.
“It has been a challenging year, and I am looking forward to the chance to formally recognize – and rightfully celebrate – all you have accomplished. In partnership with each School, we will do our best to make the events meaningful and memorable.
“Thank you for your patience as this planning has evolved. I wish you a successful and healthy conclusion to your spring semester and your time at UVA.”
Caps and Gowns, Weather Contingency Plans and Staying Safe
As in years past, the ceremonies will proceed rain or shine. In the event of severe weather (i.e. thunderstorms), the Office of Major Events has built in three additional back-up options, one Sunday afternoon, and two on Monday, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon.
Guests must adhere to all University and state COVID-19 protocols, including:
- Wearing a mask on Grounds and during ceremonies at all times.
- Staying home when sick or exhibiting symptoms.
Class of 2020 graduates and guests are encouraged to obtain a negative COVID test prior to arriving in Charlottesville and to follow all travel advisories in place. Class of 2021 guests are also encouraged to obtain a negative COVID test prior to arrival and to follow travel advisories.
UVA arrived at these arrangements in strong collaboration with the Finals 2020 and 2021 Advisory Committees, which are composed of students, faculty and administrators.
Provost Liz Magill said students on the 2021 committee “expressed a strong desire to have larger ceremonies that would feel more festive, especially given the size of Scott Stadium."