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Commencement updates: W&M Classes of 2021 and 2020

Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler sent the following messages to students in the classes of 2020 and 2021 on March 1, 2021. - Ed.

Dear W&M Class of 2021,

As promised, I am writing today with an important update regarding Commencement Weekend, which is scheduled to take place May 21-23, 2021. Representatives from across the university have spoken at length about the ways in which the Class of 2021 could safely gather together for this beloved tradition, even as the pandemic continues. We have determined that Commencement will be a hybrid celebration, with in-person traditions for degree candidates and virtual engagement opportunities for families, guests and any degree candidates who are not able to be in Williamsburg.

The Commonwealth of Virginia recently shared guidance with institutions specifically about commencement ceremonies, affirming strict limits on the number of people who can congregate both indoors and outdoors. In light of that guidance, the university is planning only for graduating students to participate in smaller in-person activities over Commencement Weekend. Rest assured, there will also be robust opportunities available online for graduating students and for parents and families who would like to be a part of this joyous occasion. The Commencement Committee is working creatively to design meaningful experiences for our degree candidates — Wren Bell ringing, Candlelight Ceremony, Walk Across Campus, degree conferral — that can be shared virtually by family and friends.

I understand how disappointing it is that family and guests cannot gather in person with our graduates for May’s Commencement. At the same time, we trust you understand the circumstances behind our decision. As always, we continue to monitor the status of COVID-19 and its impact on our community. Our primary goal will continue to be making your Commencement Weekend celebratory and memorable for everyone involved. 

I will be communicating more information about the weekend and all of the opportunities we will be offering no later than mid-April so that you can plan accordingly. In the meantime, please continue to visit our Commencement website for updated information. 

Wishing each of you health and happiness. 

Sincerely,

Ginger Ambler

Chair, Commencement Committee

Vice President for Student Affairs

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Dear W&M Class of 2020,

I write to you today with an important update concerning Commencement Weekend. Representatives from across the university have spoken at length about the many ways alumni from the Class of 2020 can come back to campus and safely gather together to take part in the beloved in-person Commencement traditions that have been postponed since last May. 

The Commonwealth of Virginia recently shared guidance with institutions specifically about commencement ceremonies; that guidance affirmed strict limits on the number of people who can congregate both indoors and outdoors. Unfortunately, the guidance makes clear that an in-person gathering of our Class of 2020 degree candidates and families simply will not be possible this May. With the status of the pandemic and vaccine distribution still uncertain for summer and early fall (and not wanting to risk our having to reschedule your celebration a fourth time), the Commencement Committee is excited to plan for your return in March 2022.  

In the coming weeks, we will be sending a survey to the Class of 2020 to determine preferred dates next March for an in-person Commencement Weekend. We want to know how many of you would plan to return to Williamsburg for the event. We will also ask about which activities you are most interested in seeing as part of your graduation/reunion gathering on campus. Among those traditions we will ask about are socials/dances, Wren Bell ringing, the Candlelight Ceremony and the Walk Across Campus.

It has been a painstaking planning process for the Commencement Committee, and it is beyond discouraging for us to be postponing your in-person gathering once again. At the same time, I trust you understand the circumstances behind our decision. Please know that our priority remains the same — we are committed to doing everything we can to preserve Commencement traditions for your class, and we’ll make it as celebratory and memorable as possible when it is safe for everyone to return to campus. 

Please be on the lookout for our survey in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you can continue to visit our Commencement website for updated information.

Wishing each of you health and happiness. 

Sincerely,

Ginger Ambler

Chair, Commencement Committee

Vice President for Student Affairs