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UMW gets creative with unconventional commencement

From UMW:

For Commencement in the time of COVID, the University of Mary Washington has scheduled nine different ceremonies over the course of four days, May 6 through May 9, 2021. All will be held on the fenced Campus Recreational Field adjacent to U.S. Route 1 in order to accommodate the most guests while maintaining social distancing.

As both our campus and local community realize: Graduation is the capstone of a years-long journey, and it’s especially notable in the midst of a global pandemic. Having an in-person ceremony, even in an altered state, is meaningful to both graduates and their families.

For graduates of the Class of 2020, who had their Commencement cancelled and postponed twice, about 350 are returning to their alma mater to don regalia and walk across the stage. More than 800 members of the Class of 2021 will participate. Each participant is allowed up to four guests. The schedule is as follows:

Ceremonies for the Class of 2020:
Thursday, May 6 at 10 a.m.
Thursday, May 6 at 1:30 p.m.
Friday, May 7 at 10 a.m.

Ceremonies for the Class of 2021:
Saturday, May 8 at 9 a.m.
Saturday, May 8 at 12:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 8 at 3:45 p.m.
Sunday, May 9 at 9 a.m.
Sunday, May 9 at 12:30 p.m.
Sunday, May 9 at 3:45 p.m.

The format of each ceremony will be modified and shortened, and will be the same for each of the nine separate events. They will take place rain or shine; if weather conditions are severe at the time of any ceremony, it will be cancelled.

All participants will be masked and socially distanced. Thorough cleaning will occur between ceremonies.

To accommodate approximately 150 graduates at each ceremony, along with their guests, and to comply with Governor Northam’s health and safety guidelines, the Campus Recreation (or “Rec”) Field is the most practical on-campus site. It allows for ticketed access and provides readily accessible garage parking with minimal interruption to other parts of campus. The location also reduces the impact on area neighborhoods.

The University is working to minimize any disruption to neighboring residents. The greatest impact will be along the 1700 block of Sunken Road, where graduates will line up before processing in.

“We have been grateful for the city’s flexibility as we worked out the most viable of options in order to safely accommodate so many graduates and guests,” said Commencement coordinator Ali Gauch Hieber. “Neighborhood leaders and city officials have been gracious and welcoming, from lifting parking restrictions to encouraging guests to make use of local businesses and services.”

Graduates and their families will be encouraged to depart campus as quickly as possible after attending the ceremony but will likely take advantage of opportunities to visit favorite area businesses.

Please refer to the UMW Commencement website for periodic updates.

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