Virginia Tech plans possible in-person events with a virtual spring 2021 commencement ceremony
March 3, 2021
Because statewide restrictions of in-person gatherings remain in effect, Virginia Tech’s spring University Commencement will be held online on May 14. However, the university is planning for some in-person moments as restrictions on gatherings could potentially loosen by May.
Plans to host in-person activities, as permissible, will be announced as the commencement date nears. As public health conditions evolve and affect state guidelines on gathering sizes, university officials are currently exploring how to create special moments that would be smaller in size so graduating students can mark their accomplishments in appropriately sized groups.
Restrictions in Virginia were eased last week. Starting on Monday certain outdoor sports and entertainment venues may begin to operate at increased capacity. This does not include commencement ceremonies at this point in time, according to guidance from the state.
Preparations for a memorable virtual ceremony to honor all graduates are already underway.
Class of 2021 graduates, including graduating classes from the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, will be honored during an online webcast May 14 at 6:15 p.m. ET. Graduates and families will be able to participate in the virtual ceremony. This will be the third virtual commencement for the university.
If campus and community members remain vigilant and follow masking, distancing, and gathering guidelines while vaccine distribution efforts expand — and case numbers in the community decline sufficiently — university leaders anticipate that event limitations could continue to ease and make small graduation gatherings possible.
At this time, such activities will be planned for graduating students and will not accommodate friends and family, who will have a chance to celebrate virtually. Current state guidelines discourage travel and accommodating visitors.
Commencement is a cherished milestone that Hokies and their families look forward to for a lifetime, but it is also a significant logistical undertaking that takes months to plan. Because of the complex nature of commencement and the evolving situation, updates will be communicated frequently. Commencement plans will be shared through email to graduating students and on the commencement website.
The official ceremony will be online and, if possible, smaller college-level events will be held before May 14. Colleges will not hold separate in-person commencement ceremonies. A commencement delivery team is planning this May’s ceremony and will create an experience for students that will be special, even if it cannot be in person. The team is seeking feedback from graduating students and will remain flexible given imposed restrictions and the cases in the community.
Students and families are encouraged to submit photos and videos that will be shared during the ceremony, read FAQs, get details about cap and gown purchases, and more at vt.edu/commencement.
“The Class of 2021 is graduating after three semesters altered by the pandemic. Their academic and campus life has been changed in ways they could not have imagined,” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands. "We have learned through this time that our online events can be engaging and of value for those family and friends who would not be able to join us in Blacksburg. Nonetheless, we know that our students, and all of us, would prefer to gather together in person to celebrate this important milestone.”
Virginia Tech held its first online commencement ceremony in May 2020 and its second in December. Past ceremonies can be viewed online for families and students to see what they can expect and how to take part in the event.
More than 10,000 Hokies have graduated during the pandemic with family and friends watching online and cheering on the newest members of the Hokie alumni community. The online ceremony gives family, friends, and alumni all over the world a chance to join together for one large celebration to honor graduates.
During this year’s ceremony, graduate and undergraduate degrees will be conferred, and special guests and student leaders will speak. Plus, there will be opportunities for friends and family to share well wishes and photos, and comment live during the ceremony. The event will be available on vt.edu and will be viewable on-demand afterward.
“I’m excited about the online ceremony and the possibility of being able to do something in-person with my fellow Hokie grads,” said Grant Bommer, who is president of the Class of 2021. “Even though this wasn’t the ending to our time at Virginia Tech that we envisioned, I think our experiences bonded us as a class and created an even stronger sense of community. I’m looking forward to seeing the entire Hokie Nation join us online to celebrate this milestone.”
Given the sizes of the M.D. and D.V.M. graduate student cohorts, the university is also considering in-person moments for these graduates that are safe and will follow public health guidelines that are anticipated to be in effect by May. All graduates can participate in the virtual university commencement ceremony.
In the coming weeks, students will receive commencement updates and information on how to participate through their email, Virginia Tech social media channels, and at vt.edu/commencement.