Commencement 2021: Virtual updates

This year’s virtual commencement ceremony will specifically center around students from UW Tacoma.

Last year’s supposed one-of-a-kind tri-campus commencement ceremony was met with tempered applause from UW students — especially those from the Tacoma campus.

Last Tuesday, the Ledger had the privilege of attending one of the many community discussions regarding the changes to this year’s commencement fair. This forum involved answering a few short questions relayed from students to faculty.

The discussion was a mix of suggestions from key campus representatives. Although all of the information regarding the ceremony has not been released yet, each pitched in their two cents on making sure this year’s commencement outshines last year’s.  

The Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs Mentha Hynes and Director of Events and Sponsorships BrieAnna Bales both explained how the ceremony would differ from the previous quarter’s.

First and foremost, Hynes announced that at the request of students at the Tacoma campus, this year’s virtual commencement ceremony would exclusively include students at the Tacoma campus. 

“We have the opportunity to plan our own program that highlights the unique identity of Tacoma,” Hynes said. “Seattle recognized that we are one system, but three different learning identities so there was absolutely no pushback or hesitancy or reservations on the part of Seattle.”

Another piece of this year’s graduation will be the inclusion of an in-person celebration on top of the commencement. Although the celebration’s exact location hasn’t been announced yet, one thing that is certain is that there will be an outdoor facility where each person will be allowed to bring one car load of guests. 

The celebration won’t be without its safety checks. Hynes explained the multiple layers of safety measures that will likely take place in order to protect the participants.

“We imagine that when you get to this location, there will be four minimally, seven maximum, stations,” Hynes said. “Your first stop will be a temperature check. We want to take your temperature and make sure you’re not exhibiting any signs of illness.”

Participants will remain in their car before moving on to the second stop with their masks to receive a souvenir from the university that’s related to commencement. The third and final stop will likely be when the graduate can leave their car and have their photo taken in front of a backdrop.

Students can expect to see the chancellor on-site, deans to rotate in and out, members of student affairs and a crew of temperature-checked volunteers to help the efforts.                                                          

In addition to the celebration, Hynes noted that the UWT campus will soon join the fight against COVID, as those interested will be eligible to receive a COVID vaccination on campus along with families, faculty and staff. 

Hynes explained further regarding the COVID vaccination to note that the UW Tacoma campus, at some point, will be used as a place where people can receive shots, but the staffing will be provided by the state health department.

Because of how many resources a commencement ceremony typically takes up, this plan is unlikely to change as long as Pierce County remains in phase 2. 

“Planning commencement usually takes nine months,” Hynes said. “BrieAnna has the task of planning commencement and let’s say it happens in June [and] two months later she’s looking for vendors and identifying prices and so forth so once we’re locked into a plan we will need to stick to that plan unless there is a significant rollback.”

As the chances for an indoor celebration are not possible, students will again not be inside the Tacoma Dome as a part of this year’s ceremony. To close things out, Hynes encouraged students to do what they can as individual members of the community to create a better environment for the future.

“Teach your family and friends the importance of masking up,” Hynes said. “Do what we can as a community to better ourselves.”