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Commencement updates sent to the Class of 2021

May 21, 2021 | Final Instructions
May 18, 2021 | Commencement Weekend Update
May 11, 2021 | Diplomas, Tickets, Name Pronunciation, #wmgrad
April 29, 2021 | Confirmation & Important Details
March 25, 2021 | Class of 2021 Commencement Schedule and Regalia
March 17, 2021 | Update from Ginger Ambler, Vice President for Student Affairs
March 1, 2021 | Update from Ginger Ambler, Vice President for Student Affairs

May 21, 2021

Dear Graduating Students,

Almost there! Here is some final information to help orient you for this weekend. We look forward to hearing your names called out in Zable Stadium as you graduate!

  • It will be HOT. Dress as comfortably as possible while maintaining some level of decorum
  • Apply sunscreen
  • Wear sunglasses
Water Bottles
  • You will receive a bottle of water when you arrive at the Wren Building for the Walk Across Campus
  • Any personal water bottles you bring with you will be collected and disposed of before the Walk Across Campus
  • DO NOT BRING YOUR FAVORITE WATER BOTTLE TO THE WALK – it’s unlikely you will get it back
  • You will also have two bottles of water waiting for you at your seat in Zable Stadium
Where to be and when to be there
  • Are you doing the Walk Across Campus? Meet at the Wren Building 75 minutes before your ceremony start time
    • You will be divided into lines by major after you cross the Crim Dell Bridge (see Ceremony Instructions for diagrams)
  • Not doing the Walk? Meet at Sadler Terrace 45 minutes before your ceremony start time
  • Line-up will be socially distanced (you will stand on a mark at least 6 feet apart from others)
What to wear to Commencement
  • Full regalia (cap, gown, hood, tassel)
  • Some of you will have cords and stoles (that’s fine)
  • Some of you will decorate your caps (that’s fine as long as it’s not inappropriate)
What to wear to Candlelight
  • Cap and Gown (no hood)
  • Candlelight begins tonight (Friday) at 9:30 p.m. in Zable Stadium (graduating students only, no guests)
Bell Ringing
For Students Participating Virtually
  • Tonight’s Candlelight Ceremony will be livestreamed. Raise a candle with the rest of your class!
  • Consider a video chat with a friend participating in the Walk Across Campus during your ceremony time
  • Your name will be announced at the end of your major, after the in-person majors have crossed the stage

We hope you have a great graduation weekend!

-The Commencement Planning Team

May 18, 2021

Dear Class of 2021,

Your Commencement Weekend is nearly here! This is one of two final messages you will receive with preparation details and reminders. We look forward to celebrating with you at the end of this week.

Masks No Longer Required Outdoors

As Chief Operating Officer Amy Sebring noted in her message to campus yesterday:

  • William & Mary will no longer require face masks outdoors on campus, effective today. This applies to all students, faculty, staff, contracted workers and campus visitors. 
  • Outdoor Commencement ceremonies will not require masks; we will continue to observe the distancing built into these plans.
  • Those who wish to continue to wear masks outdoors should do so with the university’s full support.
  • Individuals who are unvaccinated should maintain physical distancing and wear masks, consistent with the CDC’s guidance.
Where to Be and What to Wear

Candlelight Ceremony:

  • Plan to arrive at Zable Stadium on Friday evening by 9:30 p.m. ET.
  • Enter through Gate 5 (center entrance off the Zable parking lot)
  • Degree candidates only — the ceremony will be live streamed for family and guests.
  • Wear cap and gown (no hood).

Walk Across Campus/Commencement Ceremony:

  • Plan to arrive at the Wren Building 75 minutes prior to your ceremony if you wish to walk across campus.
  • Plan to arrive on the Sadler Terrace 45 minutes prior to your ceremony if you elect not to walk across campus.
  • Degree candidates will be lined up for the procession on the Sadler Terrace.
  • Wear cap, gown and hood. 

You will receive your Commencement tickets electronically today or tomorrow. Be on the lookout for an email from “Tribe Ticket Office” ([[tribetickets]]) with the subject “Your W&M Commencement Electronic Tickets Have Arrived.” You can then forward your tickets to your guests to display on their phone, or they may print out their tickets to be scanned. If using a phone, please have the tickets open and ready for scanning when you reach the entry gate. If you have questions about your tickets, please email [[commencement]].

A Special Photo Opportunity

President Rowe will open the President’s House Garden to students who would like to use the space for photos in their Commencement regalia.  

  • Stop by on Wednesday or Thursday between 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. ET. 
  • Enter using the gate on the Wren Yard side of the garden.

Be sure to review the Class of 2021 Commencement Website for answers to other questions you may have.  

See you soon!

Ginger Ambler

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May 11, 2021

Dear Graduates,

We are getting close to your Commencement! A few quick items:

  • Diploma Pick-up: Check out times and locations.
    • If you can’t make those times, you can give permission for someone else to pick up your diploma by sending an email to [[wdurba]] no later than 4pm on May 20.
    • OR if you don’t pick up your diploma, it will automatically be mailed to your permanent address in Banner
  • Tickets: Will be emailed to you next week (no later than May 19). You can forward your electronic tickets along to your guests who can either display them on their phone at the gate or print them out and present a hard copy. Each ticket may be scanned only once.
  • Name Pronunciation: You will receive an email within the next day asking you to record your preferred name pronunciation in NameCoach. Please take 1 minute to do this – for you, for your family, and to make sure the name reader gets your name right!
  • #wmgrad: We hope you will share your photos and well wishes using #wmgrad. Select photos will appear on the Commencement website, while others may make it to the pre-ceremony slideshow on the big scoreboard in Zable! More info.

Coming later this week: Info on Parking; Info on Candlelight; Commencement Ceremony Timeline (from line-up to recessional)

Please let us know if you have any questions in the meantime!

The Commencement Planning Team

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April 29, 2021
 General Instructions for Students
  • Mask Requirements: Masks must be worn at all times for our in-person Commencement activities.
  • Ticket Distribution: Tickets will be sent to you electronically in mid-May. You may then share the tickets with your guests. Each ticket scans only once, so electronic tickets may not be duplicated.
  • Cultural / Identity Celebrations – If you are interested in participating and/or receiving a stole for Lavender Graduation, Ceremonia Raíces: LatinX Commencement Ceremony, Asian Pacific Middle Eastern Commencement Ceremony, and/or Donning of the Kente ceremony, please register by 11:59 PM ET on Sunday, May 2. These events are open to all graduates from all schools, regardless of degree. Cultural celebrations will take place virtually on Thursday, May 20.
  • Departmental Celebrations: Many academic departments will offer virtual opportunities for celebration during the afternoon on Friday, May 21. Information for attending these celebrations will be posted on the Commencement website on Friday, April 30.
  • Regalia: All students processing in a ceremony must wear regalia (cap, gown, hood, tassel) – Contact the W&M Bookstore at [[wmcloth]] or call 757-221-1669 for more info.
  • Walk Across Campus: If you would like to participate in the Walk Across Campus, gather at the back of the Wren Building (Sunken Garden side) 75 minutes before your ceremony. The walk will cross the Crim Dell bridge and end at the Sadler Center Terrace (line-up location).
  • What Not to Bring: Alcohol, non-disposable beverage containers. ALL beverage containers will be collected and will not be returned.
  • Water: Each grad will receive a factory-sealed bottle of water before the Walk Across Campus begins. Bottles of water will also be provided under your seat at the ceremony.
  • Line up: If you DO NOT plan to participate in the Walk Across Campus, you will need to meet at the Sadler Center Terrace 45 minutes before your scheduled ceremony. We will line you up by major/program.
  • Seating: Graduates will be seated on the field, separated by at least 6 feet.
  • Crossing the Stage: Each graduate will have a chance to cross a ramp-accessible stage to have your name read out loud. Names will be grouped by your major. We will be in touch soon regarding preferred name pronunciation.
  • Diplomas: The diploma you receive when crossing the stage is not your actual diploma and will not have your name on it. You will be able to pick up your real diploma at a central location on campus on Friday and Saturday of Commencement Weekend (more info to come).
  • Recessional: At the end of the ceremony, students will recess out of the stadium. Please move away from the stadium to avoid congregating in groups.
  • Instructions: We will continue to keep student instructions up to date on the Commencement website.
Helpful Info for Guests
  • All of the information listed below for the Class of 2021 Commencement may be found on our website at
  • Mask Requirements: To minimize COVID-19 exposure, students and guests must follow all W&M guidelines for face coverings, regardless of vaccine status:
    • Wear a face covering while in any indoor space;
    • Wear a face covering while inside Zable Stadium and while waiting in line to enter the stadium;
    • When walking around campus, masks should be worn at all times because you are likely to encounter other students/guests while moving about. If you are sitting or standing outside, face coverings may be removed only if an uninterrupted 6-foot distance can be maintained between you and other individuals.
  • Candlelight: Due to disinfecting requirements and preparing for Saturday morning’s ceremony, only graduating students (dressed in regalia) will be permitted into Zable Stadium for Friday night’s Candlelight Ceremony (May 21, 9:30 p.m. ET). Guests will be able to view the ceremony via livestream.
  • Parking: We will provide more information and parking diagrams in the coming weeks. Generally speaking:
    • Guests should plan to park at the Kaplan Arena lot and walk to Zable Stadium (approximately 5 minute walk). Please plan to move your car within 30 minutes of the end of the ceremony so there is ample parking for the next ceremony.
    • Guests who plan to spend additional time on campus following the ceremony should park at the parking deck on Ukrop Way and walk to Zable Stadium (approximately 10 minute walk).
    • Guests with limited mobility who display either an ADA tag or limited mobility access pass (provided electronically to the graduating student) will be permitted to drop off at the limited mobility entrance to Zable. The driver will then be directed to park in the Zable Stadium parking lot, close to the limited mobility entrance and exit.
    • Additional parking details information will be available on our website and on the W&M mobile app by May 15.
  • Prohibited Items: Please take note of items that are not permitted inside Zable (along with a listing of things we recommend you bring with you).
  • Water: We STRONGLY recommend guests bring their own factory-sealed water. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, all water fountains and community re-fill stations are closed in Zable Stadium. As per state guidelines, we are also not permitted to sell concessions, including water. 
    • You are permitted to bring sealed containers of water or other non-alcoholic beverages (e.g. previously unopened plastic bottles of purified water, soda, gatorade, etc).
    • Each bottle should be 1 liter size or less.
    • For security reasons, guests may NOT bring glass containers or any refillable container or other container that has previously been opened (e.g. Nalgene, thermos, paper or plastic cups, or half-consumed bottles of water).
  • Food: In order to reduce trash and expedite disinfection between ceremonies, food is not permitted inside of Zable Stadium. There are reasonable exceptions, including food required for diabetics, young children, or medical issues. Concessions will not be served, so please time your meals before and after the ceremony accordingly.
  • Entry: Gates will open one hour before the ceremony start time. We will provide additional information regarding parking, limited mobility accommodations and entry gates. In order to avoid too many guests at any one gate, we will assign entry gates based upon the graduate’s last name. More info to come.
  • Seating: Seating for guests is General Admission. Children 2 and younger do not require a ticket. Most seats are bleacher style with no back. Your guest group may sit together, but each guest group must socially distance themselves from other guest groups (at least 6 feet between groups).
  • Accessibility Accommodations:
    • Wheelchair / limited mobility guests will be able to drop-off directly in front of gate 5.
    • Limited mobility seating is on the track, so no stairs are required for limited mobility guests.
    • We will have American Sign Language interpreters at each ceremony. Guests requiring live ASL interpretation should enter at gate 5.
    • Live closed captioning will be available on the ceremony livestreams.
  • Ceremony Timeline: The ceremony will last approximately two hours. Graduates will cross the stage by major, though graduates will not necessarily cross alphabetically.
  • Exiting the Stadium: At the end of the ceremony, students will process out of the stadium. Once students have exited, we ask all guests to pick up any personal belongings, deposit trash and recycling in the appropriate bins, and exit the stadium as efficiently as possible so that we can prepare for the next ceremony. Guests and students should not congregate immediately outside of the stadium. We also ask guests parked in Zable and Kaplan lots to please move their vehicles shortly after the ceremony ends so that we can prepare parking for the next ceremony.
  • Weather:
    • Heat: Late May in Williamsburg can be very hot and humid. We recommend guests dress comfortably for the weather. Prepare to be in the sun from the time you arrive until the ceremony is finished. Sunscreen, sunglasses and hats are recommended.
    • Rain: We will hold Commencement rain or shine. Guests should dress appropriately. Umbrellas are permitted, but please be aware of your surroundings and be respectful of other guests around you. If it has been wet, we recommend guests bring their own towels to wipe seats down.
    • Thunder/Lightning: We will move graduates to Kaplan Arena only in the event of the threat of thunder/lightning. If this happens, guests will not be permitted inside Kaplan, but they may watch the ceremony via live stream.

Please send any questions you may have to [[commencement]].


The Commencement Planning Team

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March 25, 2021

Dear Class of 2021,

I am writing with several important updates about your Commencement Weekend, May 21-23, 2021.

The plans outlined below are where things stand as of today based upon recent guidance from the governor and in consultation with our Public Health Advisory Team. As we’ve learned over the past year, plans can quickly change depending upon public health conditions in our region and on our campus.

In a message from Chief Operating Officer Amy Sebring and me earlier today, we stated that W&M’s COVID-19 numbers are currently trending in the wrong direction. We earnestly hope this trend will improve so that we can implement the plans below for you and your guests in May. We will continue to keep you updated as planning continues and conditions evolve.


The Commencement Policy Committee, in consultation with President Rowe and Provost Agouris, has worked hard to develop a plan that will enable your family and friends to join you in this important moment. We also want to ensure you are recognized in a special way for this achievement. Therefore, we are now planning six (6) ceremonies over three (3) days to ensure that every graduate who wishes can have their name read as they cross the stage.

Ceremonies will be divided by major/school. Multiple majors/schools will share the same ceremony (see schedule).

  • Each graduating student may invite up to four (4) guests to their ceremony. 
  • Students may register for tickets beginning April 1 (you will receive an email with instructions).
  • Students who wish to participate remotely should also register so their names may be read at their major/school ceremony.
  • All ceremonies will take place in Zable Stadium (rain or shine).
  • A traditional Walk Across Campus will precede each of the ceremonies, with degree candidates processing from the Wren Building to Zable Stadium for their graduation.
  • In case of thunder/lightning, students will graduate in Kaplan Arena, but families will need to watch virtually due to mandated occupancy restrictions indoors.
  • All ceremonies will be live-streamed for those who cannot attend in person.
  • Departmental and cultural/affinity group celebrations will take place virtually, per the governor’s graduation guidance.
  • Regalia is required if you wish to attend your in-person ceremony
  • The W&M Bookstore will host a Grad Fair at the store for undergraduate and postgraduate students on April 13 – 14 from 10 am – 4 pm by appointment only
  • During the appointment, students will have the opportunity to order regalia, announcements, diploma frames and class rings
  • Grad Images will also be on site for commencement portraits
  • For students unable to attend the Grad Fair in person, you may place orders online
  • Please note, the bookstore cannot accept payment over the phone

I hope this information helps you and your guests plan for May’s celebration. We will continue to provide you with Commencement Weekend updates over the coming weeks.

Best regards,

Ginger Ambler
Chair, Commencement Policy Committee
Vice President for Student Affairs

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March 17, 2021

Dear Class of 2021,

I write today with welcome news — William & Mary received updated guidance from the Commonwealth of Virginia that is informing our decision-making for Commencement Weekend on May 21-23, 2021. We are pleased that Governor Northam is providing more flexibility concerning in-person graduation ceremonies at colleges and universities. Importantly, the new guidance will make it possible for a limited number of family members/guests to attend a graduation ceremony on campus.

The Commencement Committee is working to craft the best possible experience for you and your guests, including holding your graduation ceremony in Zable Stadium. There will continue to be a virtual option for those who cannot be on campus in person. All of our decisions remain contingent on the latest data regarding COVID-19 and the evolving health and safety guidance we receive from the commonwealth. 

We plan to share further details regarding the weekend schedule and ceremony logistics next week. 


Ginger Ambler
Chair, Commencement Committee
Vice President for Student Affairs

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March 1, 2021

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. 


Ginger Ambler
Chair, Commencement Committee
Vice President for Student Affairs

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