Class of 2020 celebrates Commencement online

In lieu of in-person celebrations, Vanderbilt held a week-long celebration of the Class of 2020 with a log of videos and messages to highlight the graduates’ achievements.

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Emily Gonçalves

Students gather for commencement May 2019.

Adin McGurk, Staff Writer

Vanderbilt’s online commencement celebration for the Class of 2020 began on May 1, featuring the first round of videos and messages from the university community. The university continued to post student highlights, web content and video messages through May 8 on the commencement website.

Originally scheduled for May 6-8, in-person commencement celebrations were postponed to May 2021 for the safety of the Vanderbilt community in an administrative announcement on March 25.

In place of in-person festivities, the online commencement ceremonies culminated on the morning of May 8, 9 a.m. CST. Interim Chancellor and Provost Susan R. Wente released a video message to the Class of 2020 to honor and commemorate their achievements and hard work.  Graduating students who had met all their degree requirements received their degrees shortly afterward.

“The investment of your time and effort to get to this moment will allow you to now move forward and use your education throughout your entire life to help the world,” Wente said in the video address.

Some seniors, like Ruthie Perlman, have affirmed the university’s decision to move commencement online due to public health concerns. 

Even before Vanderbilt announced their decision to postpone graduation until 2021, I had already accepted that in-person commencement this year probably wouldn’t be happening,” Perlman said.

Senior Kara Charpentier said she appreciated that the university didn’t attempt to replicate normal commencement events over the Zoom video conferencing platform, which would have seemed impersonal.

I am pretty concerned about how that will look next year and what we might have to share with the class of 2021,” Charpentier said. “I guess I just hope we will be able to participate in all the activities that we’ve spent the last four years waiting for.”

Constance Du, a senior in Peabody College, expressed concerns that the university might not be able to find a date for in-person commencement activities in 2021 that will cater to the Class of 2020, especially since students who will enroll in graduate programs might not finish their semesters until mid-May.

“Vanderbilt is cognizant of the fact that the experience of graduating on Alumni Lawn, surrounded by friends and family, cannot be replaced,” Du said. “However, I do think that wanting to save the real celebration for next year is a bit of a double-edged sword.” 

Vanderbilt confirmed in its March 25 announcement that there will be “a set of special events” for graduating seniors this year held in 2021, likely between May 12 and 16.