FAU announces in-person commencement ceremonies for graduation

Spring 2021 graduates will be the first to walk the stage since fall of 2019.


Photo courtesy of Baim Hanif/ Unsplash

Neal Sinha, Contributing Writer

The Florida Atlantic University community received an email from President John Kelly on March 2 announcing that in-person commencement ceremonies will be held for Spring 2021 graduates. Rather than the virtual ceremonies that graduates saw throughout 2020, the Spring 2021 commencement ceremonies will be held outdoors at FAU Stadium on Thursday, April 29.

“As I have stated many times, and particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, I consider commencement a fundamental component of the educational experience here at FAU,” wrote President Kelly in his message. 

There will be two separate ceremonies, one at 9:00 a.m. and the other at 5:00 p.m. The ceremonies will also be webcast. In case of any inclement weather, the university will reschedule the ceremonies to Friday, April 30. If in-person ceremonies are interrupted by inclement weather on both dates, virtual ceremonies will be held. 

FAU decided to have in-person ceremonies rather than virtual ceremonies due to the improvement in the public health situation concerning COVID-19 and guidance from the State University System Board of Governors. 

The Board of Governors released a “Blueprint for Spring Semester 2021 Commencements” on Feb. 16. This “Blueprint” guides Florida public universities to create an individualized plan for spring commencement ceremonies.

“ I am so excited that FAU has decided to let us do an in person graduation.  All of my hard work and dedication has led to this moment.  I can’t wait to walk across that stage,” senior social work major Amanda Bornhoffer said.

Each university’s plan must follow all directions provided by the Board of Governors, who received guidance from the CDC including face masks, social distancing, personal hygiene, and other preventative measures to protect against the spread of COVID-19. 

To follow the directions by the State University System Board of Governors, FAU Stadium will need extra employees on hand to clean the stadium between ceremonies, which explains the long gap in time between the 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ceremonies.

They also recommend the ceremony be contactless, requiring a touch-free method of handing out degrees: no handshaking, contactless ticketing and entry, distribution of programs, and faculty ushering. 

FAU is not the first or only member of the State University System of Florida to announce in-person commencement ceremonies. The University of Florida and Florida State University were the first to announce in-person ceremonies back in February.

Graduates from 2020 who only had virtual ceremonies cannot take part in the spring graduation celebrations. Due to health and safety protocols related to COVID-19, only graduates from the Spring 2021 semester may participate.

President Kelly wrote, “I want to assure all students who were scheduled to graduate during 2020 that every effort will be made to ensure they and their families are given the opportunity to participate in a future commencement ceremony.” 

Carla Marianelli, a senior in the School of Social Work, said, “Despite all the struggles, I can proudly say that I’ve made it.”

Neal Sinha is a contributing writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected].