UNLV planning in-person commencement

March 19, 2021

Dear University Community, 
I know it’s spring break but I wanted to share some exciting news with you. We all know how hard this past year has been because of COVID-19. We’ve had to adapt, persevere, and evolve. It takes a toll, but your commitment is making a difference. Slowly, over the next several months, we’ll begin a gradual transition back to some sense of normalcy as long as the downward trend of the pandemic continues. And that brings me to the primary news I wanted to share today. 

After reviewing the latest data and public health guidelines for COVID-19, I have asked university staff to begin preparing for a traditional in-person commencement ceremony this spring. There’s a lot of work to do between now and then, but our intent is to move forward with ceremonies at Sam Boyd Stadium on the third weekend of May

This decision may surprise some, but I have given it much thought, and I absolutely believe we can offer a traditional commencement while adhering to public health guidelines. Graduation is the culmination of a student’s educational journey and is a significant milestone in their UNLV career. We need to make every effort to provide an experience our graduates so richly deserve. The change in venue from the Thomas & Mack Center to the larger and outdoor stadium – combined with recent changes to capacity guidelines for public gatherings – makes this feasible. The in-person commencement will replace the May 15 university-wide virtual event previously announced. 

The safety of our students, faculty, and staff remains our top priority. We are working closely with local authorities and public health experts, and are coordinating with the state, to request approval to hold these ceremonies. Please be aware that any sustained setback in the fight against COVID-19 will require us to make necessary adjustments, and we would alert you as soon as possible. 

We are planning two ceremonies for the Spring 2021 graduates, as is tradition, though they will be held over two consecutive days. The ceremonies are scheduled for 8 a.m. on both Friday, May 14, and Saturday, May 15. As is customary, the university will determine what colleges and schools – and their respective graduates – attend which ceremony. Additionally, we plan to offer a ceremony for all 2020 graduates at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, May 14. These will be ticketed events and each graduate may have up to four guests. Everyone will be required to follow social distancing guidelines and wear face coverings – no exceptions. All ceremonies will be streamed live at UNLV.edu for those who cannot or choose not to attend. The Registrar’s Office will be reaching out to 2020 graduates and prospective 2021 graduates with more information soon. 

I am confident an in-person commencement can be done in a responsible way, giving students the commencement experience they cherish and the university an opportunity to better highlight their amazing achievements. Thanks for your patience, dedication, and trust this past year.
With warm regards,
Keith E. Whitfield, Ph.D.

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