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UNLV, UNR to hold in-person graduations

Both the University of Nevada Las Vegas and the University of Reno will hold in-person graduation ceremonies this spring.

As stated in a letter, UNLV President Keith E. Whitfield, PhD., wrote that after reviewing the latest data and public health guidelines for COVID-19, Whitfield asked university staff to begin preparing for two traditional in-person commencement ceremonies later this spring.

“There’s a lot of work to do between now and then, but our intent is to move forward with ceremonies at Sam Boyd Stadium on the third weekend of May,” Whitfield stated. “We are planning two ceremonies for the Spring 2021 graduates, as is tradition, though they will be held over two consecutive days. The ceremonies are scheduled for 8 a.m. on both Friday, May 14, and Saturday, May 15. As is customary, the university will determine what colleges and schools and their respective graduates attend which ceremony. Additionally, we plan to offer a ceremony for all 2020 graduates at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, May 14.”

Discussions and considerations

Whitfield also said his decision to hold in-person commencement ceremonies came after much thought and deliberation.

“I absolutely believe we can offer a traditional commencement while adhering to public health guidelines,” he noted. “Graduation is the culmination of a student’s educational journey and is a significant milestone in their UNLV career. We need to make every effort to provide an experience our graduates so richly deserve.”

The change in venues from the Thomas &Mack Center to the larger and outdoor Sam Boyd Stadium, combined with recent changes to capacity guidelines for public gatherings, according to Whitfield, made the plan feasible.

“The in-person commencement will replace the May 15 university-wide virtual event previously announced,” he said. “The safety of our students, faculty, and staff remains our top priority. We are working closely with local authorities and public health experts, and are coordinating with the state, to request approval to hold these ceremonies. Please be aware that any sustained setback in the fight against COVID-19 will require us to make necessary adjustments, and we would alert you as soon as possible.”

Tickets please

Additionally, Whitfield noted that both ceremonies will be “ticketed events” where each graduate may have up to four guests.

“Everyone will be required to follow social distancing guidelines and wear face coverings with no exceptions,” Whitfield stated. “All ceremonies will be streamed live at UNLV.edu for those who cannot or choose not to attend. The Registrar’s Office will be reaching out to 2020 graduates and prospective 2021 graduates with more information soon.”

Wolf Pack graduation ceremonies

In reference to UNR’s commencement ceremonies, Brian Sandoval, former Nevada governor and current president of the college, sent a university-wide message to students, faculty and staff Monday, March 29, announcing the approval from the State of Nevada and Washoe County, to hold an in-person commencement ceremony in May at Mackay Stadium.

In the announcement, Sandoval said a number of people in student services and across the university have worked diligently over the past several weeks to explore and develop a new plan for an in-person commencement.

Safety regulations to be enforced

He said the plan contains a number of health and safety precautions based on the latest guidelines from the county and state.

“This plan will require cooperation, patience and understanding,” he said. “It will be a different kind of ceremony, more socially distanced and more controlled, but it gives us the one thing we have needed for a long time, which is an opportunity to gather safely to celebrate our newest graduates. In this time of pandemic uncertainty and the many sacrifices you’ve made, I hope that this welcome news provides you with the chance to smile, to anticipate the excitement of commencement, and to feel optimistic about the possibilities of our future. After a year unlike any other, we are thrilled that our graduates in both our 2020 and 2021 classes will now have an opportunity to experience an in-person commencement.”

Commencement schedules

Commencement ceremonies for 2021 graduates will be held Thursday, May 13; Friday, May 14 and Saturday, May 15.

“Ceremony times will be 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. each day, while specific college times will be announced shortly,” Sandoval noted. “Commencement for 2020 graduates will be held at Mackay Stadium on Wednesday, May 12. Ceremony times will be 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Specific college times will also be announced shortly. Graduates will be allowed up to four guests to attend the ceremony.”

Additionally, all ceremonies will be live-streamed, according to Sandoval.

“More information regarding ticketing procedures will be available shortly,” he noted. “The 2021 Virtual Commencement Ceremony will still be available on Friday, May 14. This will serve as the inclement weather alternative. If ceremonies must be canceled due to extreme weather or emergency conditions, they will not be rescheduled. The only approved option for a large gathering as a result of current COVID-19 public health guidelines is Mackay Stadium. Lawlor Events Center, given the socially distanced space limitations, is not an option. The ceremonies will be held as scheduled even in challenging weather such as rain or snow.”

Graduation al fresco

Sandoval also noted that Mackay Stadium was approved as the venue not only because it will allow ticketing for graduates and their guests, but it’s also an open-air site.

“The University is not able to use the historical quad because it does not meet the standards required for large gatherings which would provide a controlled and safe environment,” he said. “More commencement details will be forthcoming. The University will communicate additional details as soon as they are confirmed via its Commencement web page. Please know that we are doing everything possible to produce an experience that balances both the challenges brought on by the pandemic, as well as the achievements of our incredible graduates, which deserve to be celebrated to the fullest extent possible. We know the past year has presented incredible challenges for all of you. You’ve persevered, shown resiliency and succeeded against great odds. Soon it will be time to celebrate. I wish you all continued success as we move through the remainder of the spring semester and we arrive together at an in-person commencement in May.”

Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at sharris@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @pvtimes

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