U of L exploring the idea of an outdoor commencement for May 2021 Friday, Feb 26 2021 

By Madelin Shelton —

The University of Louisville is exploring the possibility of holding an outdoor, in-person commencement ceremonies May 7 through May 9 at Cardinal Stadium.

May 2021 graduates and 2020 graduates would be invited to attend, as the 2020 commencement ceremonies were cancelled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Michael Mardis, U of L dean of students and vice provost for student affairs, detailed the university’s desire to consider this option.

“We wanted to have commencement all along. We’ve done surveying and talked with a lot of different students and gotten feedback through SGA representation,” Mardis said. “Having it outdoors would be safer than having it indoors and it would be a bigger venue. Safety is our number one concern, but we have this strong desire to have an in-person ceremony because we know that that’s what students want.”

Stephanie Reibert, U of L’s commencement coordinator, discussed how the university plans to abide by COVID-19 guidelines for such an event.

“We are going to follow all university, state and CDC guidelines for precautions. So, there will be physical distancing at all times amongst the graduates and the guests,” she said. “Although it’s an outdoor event masks are going to be required at all times.”

There will also be hand sanitizing stations, sanitation of the podium, and ongoing discussions of how to handle the entry of people into the stadium so that there will be fewer touch points. Further, Mardis mentioned the likelihood that tickets for the event will be electronic to reduce interactions among staff and guests.

He also stated the importance of staying responsive and flexible with the changing nature of the pandemic. The university plans to make adjustments to commencement plans as the situation changes.

For graduates, the number of guests they can bring with them will likely be restricted. The university has limited capacity on the number of people that can be present at Cardinal Stadium.

“Our goal is to allow a safe number of guests to celebrate each graduate, but that number is still to be determined based on the state of the virus and the guidelines at that time,” Reibert said. “The number of guests allowed per each graduate will also depend on how many graduates will be participating in the ceremonies, which the university is gathering numbers on now.”

The university will come to a final decision about whether to host the outdoor ceremonies, and specific details, sometime in March.

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal

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U of L plans a virtual graduation for the class of 2020 Monday, May 4 2020 

By Eli Hughes–

The University of Louisville will host a virtual graduation on May 9 as a way to recognize the achievements of graduates while still maintaining social distancing guidelines.

This virtual ceremony will not replace the in-person spring commencement, which is expected to take place along with winter commencement later this year.

“As you know, the coronavirus pandemic necessitated the postponement of our spring 2020 commencement ceremony,” U of L President Neeli Bendapudi said in an email sent to the U of L community on May 3. “Although we do plan to hold a formal ceremony in December for our spring graduates, we want to ensure that we also recognize them now.”

The online commencement ceremony will take place on a website U of L has set up for this event. Beginning at 10 a.m. on May 9, the site will become active with messages from the U of L community, alumni, and state and local leaders.

Those interested can participate by celebrating the graduates through social media. The hashtag #UofLGrads2020 should be used to share the graduates’ accomplishments, personal stories, pictures and words of encouragement.

Graduates are also encouraged to use the hashtag to reflect on their time at U of L and share how they are celebrating. Bendapudi hinted in the email that the posts shared using the hashtag would be involved in the event on the website.

According to the email, the website will also feature spotlights of graduates, interactive features and numerous surprises.

“Although we’ll be celebrating their accomplishments in a way that is far different than anyone could have anticipated, I am certain that what the Class of 2020 has endured during this unprecedented time will further fuel their potential to build a better world, here and beyond,” Bendapudi said.

Graphic by Joseph Garcia // The Louisville Cardinal

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