Q&A: Commencement Committee addresses students’ concerns

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In two months, Waynesburg University’s 2021 graduating class will take center stage for Commencement. “Pomp and Circumstance” will play, and one by one the students will receive their diplomas.

As announced in a University-wide email from Waynesburg University’s President Douglas Lee, the tentative date for this year’s Commencement weekend is Saturday, May 1, and Sunday, May 2.

In a statement on behalf of the 2021 Commencement Committee, Ashley Wise, Director of University Relations, said this year’s graduation will look similar to last year. The weekend will be consistent with CDC guidelines and include multiple ceremonies and a baccalaureate service. 

“Last year, we hosted four beautiful, safe events with a smaller, more intimate feel than the traditional Commencement Ceremony,” Wise said in an email. “Many students and guests provided feedback that they really enjoyed the atmosphere created by the smaller ceremonies, so we are looking forward to providing a similar experience for the Class of 2021.”

According to the Commencement Committee, as of right now, nothing is certain. 

“Our firm decisions will be based on information and circumstances six weeks prior to the date of the Commencement ceremonies. Things may change, which is why we haven’t announced many details yet,” Wise said.

Despite the uncertainty, the Commencement Committee was able to address a number of student concerns.


Question: President Lee said in his email that Commencement is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, May 1, and Sunday, May 2. What are the chances of these dates changing? 

Answer: Holding Commencement on the weekend of May 1 and 2 is a priority for both the Commencement Committee and President Lee, but so is the safety of all graduating students and their guests. As long as state and federal health and safety guidelines don’t prohibit the event from happening, plans for that weekend will move forward. 


Q: President Lee also announced that there will be multiple ceremonies each day like last year. How many will there be and how will they be divided?

A: We know we will have to host multiple ceremonies based on current state guidance that limits outdoor events based on a formula, which for our site equates to 500 individuals. The planning committee also needs to know how many graduating students plan on attending in-person before we can determine the schedule for the weekend. The number of ceremonies will depend on the number of students who RSVP and reserve a seat to attend Commencement … Those who do not RSVP by the March 15 deadline will not be guaranteed a seat to participate in-person and may be limited to a virtual participation.


Q: Since there will only be one baccalaureate service, will this be done virtually? 

A: We are currently exploring options for the baccalaureate ceremony.


Q: What will attendance look like this year? Will there be any restrictions?

A: Due to current state and federal restrictions for events, attendance will be restricted to a maximum of 500 individuals. We also have to account for social distancing of guests and ensure that audience seating is spaced appropriately, so each graduating student will likely be restricted to three guest tickets. Should allowable crowd sizes be reduced by the state or CDC, we will assess and adjust accordingly; however, due to space constraints, we will not be going larger than 500 people even if the guidance allows for larger event sizes.


Q: With what is in place, how will the ceremony differ from last year’s ceremony? 

A: Current restrictions will allow for a slightly larger event than last year, but our strategies for keeping the event safe will look a lot like 2020. Consistent with our Keep Waynesburg Well Plan, masks and social distancing will be required. We know from experience that these strategies work. 


Q: When will the valedictorian and other Commencement speakers be announced?

A: Once the Registrar’s Office identifies the valedictorians, the committee will reach out to those individuals. Commencement speakers will be announced at least three weeks prior to the ceremonies via a University-issued press release. 


Q: As of right now, how should seniors be preparing for graduation? 

A: There are three key action items for graduating students: 

  1. Watch for the RSVP email: All graduating students should be monitoring their university email accounts for the RSVP email,which is scheduled to be sent the first week of March, and respond to it promptly. The committee needs to know if seniors plan to attend virtually, in-person or not at all.  The deadline for responses is March 15. 
  2. Complete Opt-In Form: Graduating students are also encouraged to fill out the Opt-In Form to enable the Commencement Committee to communicate updates with them and their families, if desired, via text message as well as email. The Opt-In form is available here: https://waynesburguniversity.forms-db.com/view.php?id=667616
  3. Order regalia: Regalia is available for purchase on the Bookstore’s website at waynesburgshop.com. If a parent is placing a regalia order on behalf of a graduate, they must indicate graduate name and student ID # in the “special instructions section” on the order.


Students should direct any commencement-related questions to commencement@waynesburg.edu.