1. Celebrating the Class of 2021 with a virtual commencement ceremony

    February 4, 2021

    Dear Graduating Students:

    We know that many of you have been eagerly waiting for news about Spring Commencement. As we have seen over the past ten months, one of the difficult challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the uncertainty that we have been forced to endure. We do not always know what measures will be needed to protect health and safety, here on campus and beyond, and that has made planning for major events such as commencement a much more ambiguous endeavor.

    To help us plan, we surveyed and engaged in conversations with you, our graduating students. We learned that if we can’t be in person for graduation, you want a virtual ceremony with synchronous content that allows the class to gather together at the same moment and includes many of the traditional elements of a University of Michigan commencement. You also asked that we announce the format as early as we can to provide as much time as possible for you and your families to plan.

    In response to your great feedback and the ongoing public health challenges of the pandemic, U-M will hold a virtual commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 1 at noon.

    We very much wish that we could hold a safe commencement in Michigan Stadium, along with the many other celebration activities that are a fundamental part of our community life and traditions. Commencement is the most joyous event of the academic year for many in our community, as we celebrate the accomplishments of our graduates and draw inspiration from the achievements they will share with our world.

    The May 1 ceremony will include synchronous content and will be available for viewing later for those who can’t be there during the scheduled time. The most important element of a commencement, according to the survey responses from 4,500 graduating students, was to have a ceremony that included the conferring of your U-M degrees. Our commencement will feature that important rite of passage prominently. We’re also working to provide virtual performances, host interactive elements, and bring in an inspiring main speaker.

    As more information is finalized, we’ll post it to our main commencement site. Our plan for virtual ceremonies also applies to the Rackham Graduate Exercises and the different types of graduation events held by organizations, student groups and most of our Ann Arbor schools and colleges.

    In addition, we are pleased to invite all graduates who missed out on an in-person ceremony due to COVID-19 to attend and participate in any future main commencement of their choosing. They and their families will be our honored guests at these ceremonies, and the graduates will be recognized not just for the completion of their degrees, but also for their resilience and fortitude in persevering during these challenging times. We’re also continuing to consider options for inviting graduates from this year’s class and the Class of 2020 back to campus for special future in-person celebrations.

    We still do not know what public health measures will need to be in place in May to hold events like commencement. Currently, we remain under prudent restrictions on gathering sizes, and it’s impossible to predict factors such as infection and vaccination rates, travel guidelines and when state and local limits on gatherings may change. Many different scenarios for a ceremony were considered, along with the feedback our students expressed in our commencement survey, conversations we’ve had with students over the last few months, and consultations with campus public health experts.

    Thank you for your patience and understanding. We join you in the hope for better days ahead, as we celebrate the University of Michigan Class of 2021.


    Mark S. Schlissel

    Susan M. Collins
    Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs