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Valparaiso University will welcome back graduates from the class of 2020 for a commencement ceremony on Dec. 19, 2021. The event will provide the graduates with an in-person experience, unlike their original, entirely virtual ceremonies held in May 2020.

“We heard from the class of 2020 graduates that this was still very important to them and their families, that they had missed out on that opportunity to celebrate and they felt that it was important to them and their families to have that time of celebration. So this is in response directly to the class of 2020 and the way they felt,” said Cassie Hopkins, director of university events.

Commencement is offered as an optional experience for the class of 2020, as they have already graduated in May 2020 when five separate ceremonies were held virtually during the growing pandemic. 

These were divided between the four colleges, with a section dedicated to graduate students of the law school and other graduate programs. Students also had the opportunity to have a printed copy of the commencement program pamphlet mailed to them.

“For the class of 2020, technically they are already graduated. They had their virtual ceremony. So this is basically a time of celebration for them, completely optional. The ceremony will still be livestreamed, but this is not a required ceremony for them by any means. It’s just an opportunity for them to come back and celebrate,” Hopkins said.

The graduating class of 2020 consisted of 1,014 students, including both undergraduate and graduate. Reservations for the event closed on Nov. 5 and revealed that a total of 135 graduates from the class of 2020 reserved a seat to participate in the ceremony.

“The reason we’re doing the 2020 commencement now is the fact that we feel this is the first opportunity it was safe enough to plan that ceremony. May [2021] was still very much up in the air with the COVID numbers and the capacity restrictions we were under for the venue,” Hopkins said.

Those returning for commencement are encouraged to wear a mask during the ceremony. However, if participants are vaccinated, face coverings are not required. Additionally, hand sanitizer will be available throughout the various ceremonial locations.

“Our building services have been working overtime for a long time now keeping things sanitized regularly. We’ll have hand sanitizer available and things like that,” Hopkins said.

The Chapel of the Resurrection will house the primary commencement ceremony at 9 a.m., while the following reception will be held in the Harre Union ballrooms. Per usual, the weekly Sunday chapel service will occur at 11:30 a.m.

The venues will serve as the setting for another commencement ceremony, beginning at 2:30 p.m., for the fall semester 2021 graduates. Each graduating class will have a ceremony and reception separate from one another. However, both will be live streamed and accessible to the public. All times are Central Standard Time (CST).

The university felt it was important to honor the accomplishments of the class of 2020 and for their hard work in such trying times.

“Everybody works for that achievement and we feel like they should be given their time to celebrate and be recognized,” Hopkins said.

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