The University of Connecticut will not be holding an in-person commencement ceremony this October, as previously announced, due to the current guidelines for gathering in Connecticut, Lauren Schaller, university events and conference services program coordinator, said.
Schaller said that UConn does plan to hold an in-person ceremony for the class of 2020 when conditions permit them to do so safely. Right now, they do not have an estimated date.
“All options are being considered for an in-person ceremony for the class of 2020, but detailed planning will not begin until the state’s guidelines for large gatherings are revised and until the university is comfortable with hosting large, in-person gatherings on our campuses,” she said. “The health and safety of our graduates and their guests is of utmost importance.”
Schaller said that it is the university’s goal to have commencement ceremonies in their typical locations, which are Gampel Pavilion, Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts and Rome Ballroom. Due to the seating capacities of each venue, the class of 2020 and the class of 2021 will have their own separate ceremonies.
“It is important to us that each class has their own celebration with the maximum allocation of guest tickets for each graduate,” Schaller said. “If the ceremonies were combined, guest ticket allocations would be cut in half, or more. That is not the experience we want our graduates to have.”
Stephanie Reitz, university spokesperson, said that UConn is looking forward to celebrating the class of 2020 when conditions are safe to do so.
“UConn will always consider its class of 2020 to be a special group of students,” Reitz said. “Completing a college career is a major accomplishment for anyone, but especially for those whose tenacity and resilience was tested by circumstances none of us had faced before. We’re excited to be able to honor them when conditions allow, and want each and every graduate to know how immensely proud we are of their success.”
Ashley Stephens, a class of 2020 human development and family sciences graduate, said she is disappointed that there will be no in-person ceremony this fall. Although she understands and respects COVID-19 safety protocol, she still wants a proper celebration.
“I am torn between how I think the ceremony should be handled,” she said. “Ideally, I think I would rather have a traditional ceremony in Gampel, whenever that may be. My biggest concern is that UConn is going to cancel the class of 2020 graduation altogether and say ‘We did have a virtual ceremony,’ which was nice but was nowhere near what we deserved.”
Stephens is now starting graduate school with her classes completely online. As a first-generation college graduate, an in-person undergraduate commencement ceremony is incredibly symbolic to both her and her family.
“My graduation ceremony is not only for me, but for my parents and grandparents who supported me throughout college and who provided me with this amazing opportunity,” Stephens said. “ I hope the first-generation graduates do not get overlooked, because this is an especially important day for all of us.”
Lexi Arcomano, a class of 2020 psychological sciences graduate, said that she is not surprised that UConn has cancelled their in-person ceremony for the fall.
“My overall thoughts are that I didn’t really mind not having an in-person graduation or miss the last month and a half of school,” Arcomano said. “ I’m just happy I got my degree and the ceremony doesn’t mean much to me personally, but I understand how it could to other members of my graduating class.”
She said she started her master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling with a concentration in mental health counseling completely remotely. She does not know if she would attend an in-person ceremony now.
“If we were to have a graduation, I would prefer a socially distant, outside ceremony, but I’m not sure I would go because I live in another state,” Arcomano said.
Twisha Shah, a class of 2020 molecular cell biology graduate, is currently pursuing a M.S. in health care at UConn. Shah said that it would be better to have a socially distant outside ceremony before people “have moved on with their lives completely.”
“It was disappointing to not graduate like everyone before us has,” Shah said. “ It’s made graduation not feel one hundred percent real, if that makes sense.”
“It’s made graduation not feel 100% real.”
Madison Busick, a class of 2020 digital media and design graduate, said she was able to secure a job after a summer internship was cancelled. She still does not know if she has to relocate. She said she feels that an in-person UConn graduation would not be able to match her expectations anymore. Without having all of her friends and family watching, it does not seem worth it.
“It was just very disappointing to miss out on all of the big end of year events I had been looking forward to my whole college career,” Busick said. “Beyond just graduation, I missed the end of year celebrations and dance performances for my clubs, spending time with friends and getting to say goodbye to my classmates and professors in person.”
Busick said that she wishes the class of 2020 would not be remembered as the class that did not get an in-person commencement ceremony.
“The most frustrating thing for me has been everyone saying ‘at least you’ll surely be a graduating class to remember,’” she said. “I think we all would rather have been remembered and celebrated for our contributions and accomplishments than the unfortunate, and mostly avoidable, circumstances that our graduation happened to line up with.”