UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State will host in-person commencement ceremonies in May to mark the class of 2021’s completion of their academic experience and to recognize their many accomplishments. Virtual and livestream options also will be available for students, friends and family members who are unable to attend or prefer to participate online.
“Commencement is a pivotal occasion for our students, their loved ones and our University community,” said Penn State President Eric Barron. “To be able to celebrate in person is important, and I am so pleased we will be able to gather together many of our graduates on campuses and virtually to mark this important milestone for the members of the class of 2021. This is such a special time for our students, and we look forward to celebrating the culmination of their years of dedication and hard work.”
According to Barron, the decision to move forward with in-person commencement ceremonies is made possible by rising vaccination rates and recent changes to state guidelines allowing for larger gatherings and travel. With the health and safety of students, their guests and campus communities continuing to be the priority, this year’s ceremonies will look different and will follow all state and federal guidelines.
“We all need to continue our vigilance with respect to COVID-19, and I call on everyone in our community to continue to follow all public health guidelines,” Barron said. “While I look forward to celebrating in person, we will remain flexible and adjust our plans based on changing virus conditions or changes in public health guidelines.”
Penn State is monitoring closely the spread of new variants and the potential impact of increased activities such as travel nationally. The University is prepared to shift plans should circumstances surrounding the pandemic change or worsen. More information will continue to be shared and updated as needed leading up to commencement to align the University's plans with the most up-to-date federal and state guidance.
University Park and World Campus plans
At University Park, ceremonies will take place in Beaver Stadium, rain or shine, during the originally scheduled commencement weekend from May 7 to 9. All undergraduate students at University Park and World Campus and graduate students in the Graduate School at University Park and World Campus who filed their intent to graduate in spring 2021 will receive information to attend the commencement ceremony for their assigned college.
There will be a limit of two guests per graduate to support physical distancing, seating accommodations and stage placement. Tickets will be required for all graduates and guests attending ceremonies in Beaver Stadium, and graduates will be required to register for the tickets. As part of a two-step process for ticket registration, later this month, graduates will receive an email from MarchingOrder via firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP to attend the in-person ceremony. In April, graduates who RSVP’d will receive an email from email@example.com to secure tickets for themselves and their guests (students will not be able to change their guests once registered). Both steps must be followed in order to receive tickets. Seating will be arranged in pods of three — the graduate and up to two guests.
University Park’s celebrations will include the conferral of degrees, speakers and induction into the Penn State Alumni Association. To adjust for protocols that protect the health and safety of students, guests and employees in attendance, graduates will not be called upon to walk across the stage. However, each graduate's name, degree and major will be featured on a video board during the ceremony.
Ceremonies at Beaver Stadium will be livestreamed so graduates, friends and loved ones who are unable to attend may watch the ceremony that their graduate attends. In the event of severe weather, outdoor ceremonies will be canceled and will not be rescheduled. Graduates and guests should check the University’s commencement website for updates in the event of severe weather.
Should guidance from Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and/or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shift to allow higher capacity for gatherings leading up to commencement weekend, the University's plans regarding capacity and guest limits will remain the same with two guests per graduate. This will enable the University to maintain appropriate physical distancing between seats to support the health and safety of graduating students, guests and employees in attendance, as well as optimize the guest experience, ticket registration process and stage set-up at the stadium.
Commonwealth Campus plans
Each Commonwealth Campus will host its own ceremony, or ceremonies, to honor their graduates and will be sharing detailed information directly with graduating students. Ceremony locations for each of the Commonwealth Campuses will take place at venues that can facilitate a spring commencement that is aligned with Pennsylvania Department of Health guidance.
“I am proud of all our graduating students. Graduation is a special time in the lives of our students and each campus is planning a very thoughtful and meaningful celebration to recognize this significant milestone,” said Madlyn Hanes, senior vice president for Commonwealth Campuses and executive chancellor. “I look forward to the variety of ceremonies that will be taking place across our Commonwealth Campuses this spring to celebrate the exceptional accomplishments of all our graduates.”
University-wide virtual ceremony
In addition to the various in-person ceremonies hosted across the Commonwealth, Penn State will also host a University-wide virtual ceremony to help make commencement accessible for all students and their loved ones. Graduates, friends and family members who are unable to attend or prefer to participate online may view the University-wide virtual ceremony on May 9 at 6 p.m. at virtual.commencement.psu.edu.
The virtual ceremony will celebrate all undergraduate and graduate students at Commonwealth Campuses, University Park and World Campus — including those also attending an in-person ceremony — and will feature the conferral of degrees, induction into the Alumni Association and more.
Health and safety guidelines
All students, guests and employees across each campus will be required to wear face masks and maintain physical distancing from others to help minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19. Penn State staff will be on site to provide guidance and answer questions. All guests who will be attending an in-person commencement ceremony are expected to take health and safety precautions while traveling and during commencement weekend. In addition, graduates and guests should not attend an in-person ceremony if within the last 14 days they think they have been exposed, are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, are awaiting test results or have tested positive for COVID-19.
Graduating students who would like to be tested for COVID-19 before attending their commencement ceremony will be able to do so through the University’s on-demand testing process at each campus.
Class of 2020
In partnership with the Penn State Alumni Association and in consultation with alumni representatives, the University is planning for a special weekend in spring 2022 to celebrate the members of the class of 2020. More information and a specific date will be forthcoming as the University continues to develop plans to welcome recent graduates and their families back to campuses next spring with a variety of activities and events. In addition, Commonwealth Campuses will communicate specific plans for their alumni.
For more information about spring 2021 commencement, including frequently asked questions and guidance on tickets, seating and more, visit commencement.psu.edu.