Historic Graduation Plans for Classes of 2020, 2021 Kick Off This Weekend

11 May 2021

By Jane Kelly

Two full weekends of graduation ceremonies for the University of Virginia’s classes of 2020 and 2021 will kick off Sunday, when about 2,800 members of the Class of 2020 and members of their families are expected to return to Charlottesville for congratulatory celebrations.

Students from the Class of 2020 will be divided into two groups, with one ceremonial procession beginning at 9 a.m. and the other at 3 p.m.

In processions unlike any other in UVA’s 200-year history, students will take the time-honored walk down the Lawn, toward the Homer statue. But then they will continue on to Scott Stadium, where in a historic turn, they will walk onto the football field, where they will be seated for the ceremonies, which will last approximately one hour and be livestreamed. Students were allowed two tickets for attendees, who will be physically distanced in the stadium’s seating areas.

Class of 2020 Celebrations

The ceremonies will open with the Pledge of Allegiance and performances of the national anthem by accomplished UVA a capella performers; Summer Chambers, a graduate student who is earning her second master’s degree this year, will perform in the morning, and Jordan Brown, a fourth-year student and member of the group Hoos in Treble, will sing in the afternoon ceremony.

UVA President Jim Ryan, who will deliver welcoming remarks, will oversee the ceremonial re-conferring of the degrees that students officially received during last year’s virtual Final Exercises, which were forced online because of the coronavirus. More than 7,000 students received degrees last year, including 4,250 baccalaureate degrees – 167 earned in three years and five in two years’ time – as well as approximately 3,000 graduate and professional degrees. (A full schedule of events can be viewed here.)

One of those students is Michael Bliss, who earned his undergraduate degree in computer engineering last year and said he is excited to return to Charlottesville to walk the Lawn.

“I spoke to a bunch of my friends. Most of them are going to be there, and I haven’t seen many of them for going on a year now,” he said from Boston, where he is working as a software engineer. “I’m excited to see many of them!”

The president and vice president of the Class of 2020, Omar Elhaj and Virginia “Ginny” Brooks, also will return to Grounds for the celebrations and will offer brief remarks at both the morning and afternoon ceremonies. The pair have helped bring ideas from members of their class to Finals organizers. In addition to the May 16 proceedings, UVA is planning a special, early reunion for the Class of 2020 next year.

Like Bliss, Elhaj and Brooks say they are really excited to reconnect with friends.

“That’s something that I’m very much looking forward to, and also sort of using that time to sort of look forward as opposed to looking back on such a troubled year,” Elhaj said. “I think what I am excited to do is to use the experiences, the good experiences that I’ve had in college, and think about them and be memorable of them when I’m in the space where they happened, to sort of look ahead and hopefully have brighter days and use the experience to think more positively about the future.”

Sunday’s proceedings and those for the Class of 2021 will also include some surprise guests and performances. The finals speakers for both classes will be announced later in the week.

Class of 2021 Celebrations

The weekend of May 21 through 23 will see three days of Final Exercises for the Class of 2021, to keep the number of individuals attending each ceremony within safe boundaries.

Friday, May 21: Students graduating from the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, the School of Education and Human Development, the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing will be celebrated at Final Exercises Friday morning at 9 a.m.

In the afternoon, at 2 p.m., Final Exercises will be held for students graduating from the schools of Architecture and Data Science, the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the School of Continuing and Professional Studies.

Saturday, May 22: UVA’s largest school, the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, will be separated into two groups for Final Exercises, with one being celebrated in a ceremony at 9 a.m. and the other at 2 p.m.

Sunday, May 23: On Sunday at 9 a.m., students from the McIntire School of Commerce, the Darden School of Business and the School of Law will make their procession down the Lawn and receive their degrees in a Final Exercises ceremony at Scott Stadium.

UVA is reserving the afternoon of May 23 and the morning and afternoon of May 24 for any ceremonies delayed because of severe weather.

In sum, UVA will confer 7,494 degrees to the Class of 2021. Of these, 4,505 are baccalaureate degrees, 242 of these earned in three years and five in two years. UVA will bestow 467 first professional degrees and 2,522 graduate degrees, including 306 Ph.D.’s, 10 Doctor of Education degrees, 17 Doctors of Nursing Practice, and three Doctors of Juridical Science degrees.

Students will receive their diplomas by mail, at the address indicated in the Student Information System.

Safety and Security Regulations

Guests and graduates must adhere to all University and state protocols. That includes wearing a mask on Grounds and during the ceremonies at all times and remaining home if sick or exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. Graduates and guests are encouraged to obtain a negative COVID-19 test prior to arriving in Charlottesville, and to maintain physical distancing while on Grounds.

UVA’s clear bag policy will be in effect, meaning attendees must put their belongings into a clear plastic, vinyl or PVC bag that does not exceed 12 inches x 6 inches x 12 inches. One small clutch bag, approximately the size of a hand, with or without a handle or strap, can be taken to the event along with one clear plastic bag.

Everyone attending Final Exercises, including graduates, faculty and guests, will be subject to security screening before entering Scott Stadium.

Guests can sign up for text alerts for important information, including potential updates to the Finals Weekend schedule and other important announcements.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


Press Contact

Sophie Zunz
Director of Media Relations
Darden School of Business
University of Virginia