UI gears up for University-wide commencement celebrations

A+University+of+Illinois+graduate+takes+a+photo+while+seated+at+the+May+16%2C+2015+Commencement+at+Memorial+Stadium.+The+University+will+be+conducting+a+hybrid+of+virtual+and+in-person+private+stage+crossing+experiences+for+2020+and+2021+graduates+this+May.+

Photo Courtesy of the UI News Bureau / Woloszyn

A University of Illinois graduate takes a photo while seated at the May 16, 2015 Commencement at Memorial Stadium. The University will be conducting a hybrid of virtual and in-person private stage crossing experiences for 2020 and 2021 graduates this May.

By Payal Rathore, Staff Writer

The University has decided to proceed with a hybrid of in-person and virtual events for both classes of 2020 and 2021 commencement celebrations, so as to continue in-person commencement traditions while keeping existing COVID-19 regulations in mind.

“All of our decisions related to events continue to be guided by the directives from the Illinois Department of Public Health and advice of our local public health officials,” Laura Wilhelm-Barr, senior director of Special Events said.

The commencement ceremony was canceled for the class of 2020 due to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation to avoid gatherings of 50 people or more at that time.

2021 and 2020 graduates will be participating in the in-person individual, private Stage Crossing experience, which will be conducted in 15-minute slots. Stage Crossings will take place from May 10 to May 17 at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

Two guests will be allowed to accompany and photograph each graduate. Professional photographers will also be present to take formal portraits while videographers live stream and record the Stage Crossings.

Those who participate will have to abide by mandatory COVID-19 safety protocols such as wearing face coverings and practicing social distancing. Similar to buildings like the Illini Union and University Housing Residence Halls, Safer Illinois building access will not be required at the Stage Crossings.

“However, (Wellness Support Associates) will be present at the Stage Crossing entrances to ensure COVID-19 safety protocols are followed. Stage Crossings will be held over 8 days on multiple stages to ensure that crowds do not form,” Barr said. 

Graduating students will be permitted to remove their masks when they are on stage and are having their photographs taken. 

The University-wide online commencement celebration is scheduled to take place on May 15 at noon. This celebration will feature music, congratulatory messages from the Chancellor, Provost and Deans with the conferral of degrees by the President of the UI System.

The Stage Crossing experience preserves those in-person moments while offering other components in a virtual experience,” Barr said. 

The University intends to invite graduates from 2020 and 2021 to participate in an on-campus ceremony at Memorial Stadium once it is safe to resume large, in-person gatherings, according to a statement on the University’s commencement website.

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