The University will host a Virtual Celebration and Degree Conferral for the Class of 2020 on Saturday, May 16, starting at 1 p.m. Eastern time. The virtual ceremony will feature elements of a traditional Final Exercises, including remarks from University President Jim Ryan and the conferral of degrees, as well as performances from students and two surprise world-class entertainers.
An email was sent from Class of 2020 President Omar Elhaj and Vice President Ginny Brooks to all graduating students May 11, congratulating them on finishing the year strong and providing them with details about the ceremony.
“Although we graduate in very different circumstances than we expected, it is an incredible accomplishment nonetheless,” the email read. “We commend you for finishing your time at U.Va. despite the adversity, and hope you and yours are safe and well.”
The approximately 30-minute virtual celebration will begin with a performance by the first surprise entertainer and be followed by a Year-in-Review video. Then the deans of all 12 schools will confer degrees to the Class of 2020, including August and December 2019 graduates. After a student-led performance, Ryan will deliver reflective remarks, and then the second surprise entertainer will perform before the ceremony concludes with a rendition of “The Good Old Song” by the University Singers.
The event will be live streamed across a variety of platforms including the social media accounts of the University, President Ryan, the Office of Major Events and The Cavalier Daily. A recording can be accessed afterwards from the University.
“I'm glad the university is still providing a virtual celebration on the day of the event,” said graduating College student Elizabeth Chung. “For many of us, we've had May 16 scheduled in our calendars for months, so even though we won't be having an in-person celebration till later, it's nice to still be able to celebrate on that specific day.”
Despite not being able to celebrate in-person with their fellow classmates, graduating students have planned their own celebrations with their families on Saturday. Chung is doing a Zoom toast with her family, complete with balloons and a nice dinner afterward.
Graduating College student Emily Angelotti’s family ordered wine from Veritas, a Charlottesville winery, and a representative will walk them through a virtual tasting.
“Family members from all over the U.S. are ordering the wine and joining in, which is cool because a lot of them weren't planning to travel to Virginia for my graduation,” Angelotti said. “It's fun that we're able to include everyone in the celebration.”
This week, graduating students and their families are encouraged to use the hashtag #UVAGrad on their social media posts and a collection of which will be featured on the Class of 2020 celebration website. Students can also access their school’s celebration-specific page on the website.
While the celebration marks the conclusion of the academic year, it is not a substitute for the traditional Final Exercises, which is tentatively scheduled to be held on Grounds from October 9-11. If circumstances do not permit Final Exercises to be held this fall, a second date has been set for next spring, from May 28 to 30.
“The best part of graduation is being with your friends and family and saying one last bye to the people and places that have shaped you over the past four years,” Chung said. “That is not something you can replicate over a virtual celebration.”
The message to the Class of 2020 recommended against making travel plans for October until a final decision has been announced. President Ryan will follow up next month with more definitive information about Final Exercises.