Live commencement slated for spring

4 ceremonies scheduled, participants must wear masks, social distance

Lexi Langendorf and Kelly Hueckman

UW Oshkosh will hold in-person graduation this May that will include four ceremonies and allow each graduate to request two tickets for guests.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the last two commencement ceremonies for Spring 2020 and Fall 2020 had been completely virtual events. These graduates are being invited to participate in the May 2021 ceremony.

In an email sent to students and staff at UWO on March 12, Leavitt said the Spring 2021 graduation ceremony will take place in person on May 15 at the Kolf Sports Center. His announcement came after UW-Green Bay stated that they would also be holding their commencement ceremony in person, albeit with several restrictions.

On March 19, Leavitt emailed students and staff with more details. According to his email, the four ceremonies at Kolf will follow this schedule:

  • 8 a.m. – all doctoral, associate of arts and science, bachelor of applied studies and bachelor of liberal studies degree candidates.
  • 11 a.m. – College of Business undergraduate and master’s degree candidates; and College of Letters and Science undergraduate candidates receiving bachelor of Arts, Fine Arts, Music and Social Work degrees.
  • 2 p.m. – College of Letters and Science master’s degree candidates; and bachelor of science undergraduate candidates.
  • 5 p.m. – College of Nursing undergraduate and master’s degree candidates; College of Education and Human Services undergraduate and master’s degree candidates.

In addition, Leavitt wrote that one or two  additional tickets may  be available for guests, and if available, will be given to students who had previously requested guest tickets. UWO will also set up a system requiring people to RSVP to  help them plan for attendance.

“We are able to plan the in-person celebration of our graduates thanks to the diligence of our faculty, staff and students who have adhered to safety measures over the past year,” Leavitt said. “Thank you.”

He said measures will be in place so the university can provide a safe environment for graduates and their guests at the graduation ceremonies. That includes requiring masks and setting up Kolf for social distance. In addition, attendance will be limited to those with tickets and there will be no procession. The platform party will also  be limited and some aspects, for example music, will be prerecorded.

Hosting four ceremonies will require a large number of volunteers, Leavitt said. Due to capacity limits,  staff and faculty will not be able to attend the ceremony unless they are volunteering. Faculty and staff can sign up to volunteer here.

The ceremony will also  be live-streamed for those who are unable or elect not to attend in-person. More information can be found on the commencement website.

Students, especially seniors, seem to be happy about the announcement.

“I (was) hoping that they (would) be able to figure out a safe way for me to physically walk across some sort of stage,” said senior Megan Sullivan.

Though she understands why the last two commencement ceremonies were virtual, Sullivan still wants to be able to celebrate all of the work she has put in throughout the years in a more traditional manner.

“I would love for my parents to attend and see me walk across the stage,” she said.

Leavitt expressed excitement in his announcement, but he continued to encourage community members to be responsible in keeping COVID-19 cases down.

“Meanwhile, don’t let your guard down,” Leavitt said in his announcement.

Safety of the community is the No. 1 priority, so Leavitt said students should continue to practice social distancing and take preventative action against COVID-19. Students eligible for the vaccine can also sign up for the vaccinations through the Student Health Services.

UWO will also return to in-person classes in fall.

“We have a great plan, great faculty, great students and a great community,”  Leavitt said during a March 8 Town Hall. “As we leave COVID behind, I really believe the better days are in front of us.”

John Koker, UWO provost and vice chancellor, said if students need any sort of accommodation for the return to class structure, they should contact his office.

“We’re trying to go back to in-person so we can give students the best learning experience possible,” Koker said.

Editor’s Note:  This story was  updated  to include information from Leavitt’s March 19 email.