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Commencement updates for the Class of 2020

April 2, 2021 | Commencement Survey
March 1, 2021 | Update from Ginger Ambler, Vice President for Student Affairs

April 2, 2021

Dear W&M Class of 2020,

Please take a moment to complete this brief survey about Commencement Weekend for the Class of 2020. We’d like to hear from as many of you as possible, so please spread the word to fellow classmates who may not be checking their W&M email frequently. The survey includes three (3) potential new dates (fall, early spring, late spring). We are looking at these possible future dates in order to give enough time for you and your guests to adjust work schedules and make travel arrangements. We’re interested in hearing your feedback so we can make plans for those of you who wish to return! The survey will remain open until Friday, April 23.

As you may have heard, the governor’s guidelines for graduation exercises changed in mid-March, making it more conducive to holding ceremonies in the spring. However, we did not include May 2021 as a possible date for a few reasons.

  • Before the new guidelines came out, the Commencement Policy Committee agreed that we don’t want to reschedule too soon and risk yet another postponement for the Class of 2020.
  • We know that many graduates and their families had already cancelled travel and hotel plans and re-adjusted their work schedules by the time the guidelines changed.
  • Health conditions continue to evolve, and we are mindful that any plans we make for a Class of 2020 return in the spring could still be altered if COVID-19 conditions trend in the wrong direction.

We’ve heard from so many members of the Class of 2020 and their families about how important it is to them to have an in-person Commencement Weekend. We will do what we can to make sure those who wish to return have a meaningful experience and opportunity to reunite with fellow classmates.

We will notify you and your families once we have a plan in place.

Sincerely,

The Commencement Planning Team

March 1, 2021

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

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