BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — With statewide restrictions for in-person gatherings still in effect amid the coronavirus pandemic, Virginia Tech decided to hold the spring 2021 commencement ceremony virtually. However, if those gathering restrictions loosen by May, some in-person moments may be in the cards for Hokie graduates.
Even though restrictions in Virginia were eased last week so certain outdoor sports and entertainment venues could start operating at increased capacity on Monday, March 1, these loosened restrictions reportedly do not include commencement ceremonies at this time.
While preparations are already underway for a virtual ceremony honoring all graduates, Virginia Tech says plans to host permitted in-person activities will be announced closer to the commencement date.
In the meantime, university officials say they are exploring how to create special moments on a smaller scale so graduating students can celebrate their accomplishments in appropriately-sized groups.
According to Virginia Tech’s statement from Tuesday, March 2, the Class of 2021 graduates — including the graduating classes from the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine — will be honored during an online webcast at 6:15 p.m. on May 14.
Because of the size of the M.D. and D.V.M. graduate student cohorts, school officials say they are also considering safe in-person moments for these graduates that will follow the public health guidelines expected to be in effect by May.
If campus and community members remain vigilant and follow masking, distancing, and gathering guidelines while vaccine distribution efforts expand — and case numbers in the community sufficiently decline — university leaders anticipate that event limitations could continue to ease and make small graduation gatherings possible.
At this time, such activities will be planned for graduating students and will not accommodate friends and family, who will have a chance to celebrate virtually. Current state guidelines discourage travel and accommodating visitors.
Commencement is a cherished milestone that Hokies and their families look forward to for a lifetime, but it is also a significant logistical undertaking that takes months to plan. Because of the complex nature of commencement and the evolving situation, updates will be communicated frequently.Virginia Tech
Even though school officials say smaller college-level events may possibly be held before the official May 14 ceremony, colleges will not hold separate in-person commencement ceremonies.
During this year’s commencement, the university will confer graduate and undergraduate degrees and special guests and student leaders will have the opportunity to speak.
Meanwhile, students and their families are encouraged to submit photos, videos, and even live comments to be shared during the ceremony.
You can watch the event live on May 14 on vt.edu and/or view it on-demand afterward.
“The Class of 2021 is graduating after three semesters altered by the pandemic. Their academic and campus life has been changed in ways they could not have imagined,” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands. “We have learned through this time that our online events can be engaging and of value for those family and friends who would not be able to join us in Blacksburg. Nonetheless, we know that our students, and all of us, would prefer to gather together in person to celebrate this important milestone.”
The May 2021 commencement will mark Virginia Tech’s third virtual commencement ceremony, preceded by those in May 2020 and in December 2020. In fact, according to the university, more than 10,000 Hokies have graduated during the pandemic while family, friends, and alumni across the globe watched online and cheered on the newest members of the Hokie alumni community.
“I’m excited about the online ceremony and the possibility of being able to do something in-person with my fellow Hokie grads,” said Grant Bommer, president of the Class of 2021. “Even though this wasn’t the ending to our time at Virginia Tech that we envisioned, I think our experiences bonded us as a class and created an even stronger sense of community. I’m looking forward to seeing the entire Hokie Nation join us online to celebrate this milestone.”
Students should expect to receive more updates on commencement in the coming weeks on the university’s commencement website — which will offer answers to FAQs, details about cap and gown purchases, and more — as well as via email and Virginia Tech’s social media.