2022 commencement to be held fully in person for first time since pandemic began


Photo courtesy of Fred Zwicky/Illinois News Bureau

Alma is covered in a full graduation regalia for the commencement in May 2021. This years commencement will be happening in person following the pandemic.

By Lilli Bresnahan, Assistant News Editor

The 2022 commencement ceremony at the University will be held fully in person for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the ceremony to go virtual in 2020.

According to Laura Wilhelm-Barr, senior director of special events, having commencement fully in person was a “natural transition” as the classes at the University and sporting events are held in person as well. 

“In 2020 and 2021, we had virtual degree conferrals,” Wilhelm-Barr said. “They were not full ceremonies, but it was the opportunity for students to cross the stage, have a photo taken and they could bring four guests with them so that they could have their family right there with them to help celebrate the recognition and their academic achievements.”

Cassie Reeser, senior college events coordinator for Business, explained that a unit ceremony is where the student crosses the stage, has their name read and is handed a diploma, whereas commencement is where the degree is “officially conferred” and they stand up as a unit but don’t have their names read aloud. 

Reeser said that during the pandemic, they managed to keep some of the commencement experience while also providing a fully virtual ceremony through the help of the college e-learning team. 

“We were able to keep many components the same, such as communication timelines with students and the ceremony structure, including alumni and student speakers,” Reeser said. 

According to Reeser, the commencement ceremony this year for Business will be held in the State Farm Center. There, the amount of space allows the University to not put a limit on the number of guests that graduating seniors can bring. 

“There’s no tickets involved in the main ceremony for us,” Reeser said. 

Since 2020 and 2021 University graduates were unable to experience an in-person commencement, the University invited those classes to attend this year’s commencement ceremony. 

According to Reeser, the University did a registration for all the students coming back, so that they knew they had enough space.

“That’s how we kind of gauged those numbers to make sure things balanced with our current class as well,” Reeser said. “It’s such a large venue that capacity really isn’t an issue for us.”

According to Wilhelm-Barr, the current COVID-19 guidelines will determine what is in place for the ceremony.

Reeser said there will not be a social distance requirement at the ceremony, and the University will not require attendees to wear a mask.

“The University policy is that you are not required to wear a mask for the commencement weekend activities,” Reeser said.

Still, the University’s current COVID-19 protocols require attendees to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test, or their Illinois app building access. 


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