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Spring Commencement 2020 Update

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Jeremy Haefner

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Dear DU Community,

I know many of you have been very anxiously awaiting a decision about Spring Commencement 2020. We purposefully waited as long as possible to make this decision in order to maximize our opportunities to celebrate our graduating students, be guided by state and local orders, and to understand what is possible as we consider the overall health and well-being of our community members.

In crafting DU’s plan, we consulted with many people, most importantly some of our imminent graduates and their families, who care deeply, as do we, about how we can best celebrate their accomplishments and mark the end of their undergraduate and graduate studies. While the coronavirus pandemic has taught us that some occasions can be commemorated online, nearly everyone we spoke with agreed that it would be impossible, in a digital format, to capture the pride and joy we feel as a community when thousands of people gather together in Magness Arena, dressed in academic regalia, to honor academic achievement, celebrate the making of lifelong friendships, and express our gratitude to the families and friends who made the experience possible.

Therefore, we will give our full and best effort to plan a celebration, with three parts, that is designed to shine the brightest light we can on our more than 3,000 graduate and undergraduate students who expected to toss their caps in the air on June 12 and 13 respectively.

We will postpone in-person Spring Commencement 2020. Due to physical distancing and density parameters in place in Denver and Colorado at least through May 28 (and certainly beyond), there is simply no way we will be able to—nor would we want to—take the risk of sitting together in great numbers, even if we were able to pull this off outdoors. Students also were clear that they would be disappointed by a digital-only commencement. We anticipate holding the rescheduled event in spring 2021; and will announce dates in the first part of 2021. (Please note that we will also soon announce our decision about the summer 2020 Commencement which is typically held in August). 

We will hold a Day of Recognition on Friday, June 12. We also heard that students and families desire a celebration now that honors graduates in a meaningful way. Therefore, we are planning a day of recognition that includes both an in-person component, and a digital ceremonial event that families around the world can view and share across social media. During the digital component, we will present a congratulatory video message from me and the deans and others, and most importantly, I will officially confer degrees to students who have completed their academic requirements. Though seated at a safe physical distance from each other, members of our “platform party” will be dressed in academic regalia, and we will pay proper tribute to both our undergraduate and graduate students who are graduating this spring. We will release that video at noon on June 12 so that anyone who wishes to may participate. We also will encourage students and families to share their celebratory photos and videos with us and their classmates as we keep the celebration going throughout the day on social media. Academic units will also communicate soon about their plans to recognize their graduates.

We will create a celebratory in-person moment. I am especially excited to announce that, we also are planning a more personal in-person celebration on June 12 from 3-6:00 p.m. in the Mary Reed Circle on campus. While following all safety protocols, we are inviting our graduating students to sign up for an in-person Commencement photo moment with me and Corinne Lengsfeld, interim provost and executive vice chancellor. Both Dr. Lengsfeld and I would like an opportunity to personally congratulate some of our graduating students in-person. Details for signing up will be sent soon to eligible students. We realize this means it’s likely that only those in close proximity to campus can join us, but we wanted to offer this opportunity for those students who can participate safely and without undue hardship. I promise you that when we all get back together again next year the class of 2020 will feel fully honored and celebrated in all the ways that DU students and families have come to expect.

We have made academic regalia available for graduates. Finally, students wanted the option to order academic regalia for personal pictures and family celebrations at home. The bookstore is taking orders now.

I know we can’t possibly replicate right now what your expectations were for Commencement 2020, but we do hope our plan achieves our greatest desire: to celebrate the achievements of our graduates and to express our genuine gratitude for the families, faculty, and staff who made such success possible.


Jeremy Haefner