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Mar. 25, 2020 – Vanderbilt Community: Update on Commencement

Posted by on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 in Community Messages.

Dear Vanderbilt community,

The historic circumstances of the last few weeks have brought about unprecedented challenges and some of the most difficult decisions that university leaders across the country have ever had to face. Earlier today, I shared one of the most personally painful decisions to date with our students planning to graduate in May and their families.

Based on current CDC public health recommendations for maintaining social distancing through mid-May, and after deliberation with the deans of all of Vanderbilt’s schools and colleges, as well as members of our Board of Trust ad hoc committee on university COVID-19 response, I have reached the profoundly difficult decision not to hold Vanderbilt Commencement ceremonies, or other related activities, for this academic year.

In lieu of gathering on May 8, we are committed to holding a series of special events for the Class of 2020 in May 2021. We envision these 2021 events to include a landmark postponed Commencement ceremony for the 2020 graduates as well as serving as a one-year reunion for the Class of 2020. I also will launch a process for assembling a group of students from the Class of 2020 to give input into these events, which should reflect their hopes and expectations surrounding this very special milestone.

I cannot overstate how challenging it has been to make this decision. Commencement is a sacred occasion throughout the Vanderbilt community and a well-deserved period of celebration for our newest graduates. Yet we are in a moment in history that demands—first and foremost—the protection and safety of our students and their families.

My heart aches knowing that we will not be able to celebrate in person on May 8, but I know the Vanderbilt community will continue to show empathy and compassion to the Class of 2020 during these extraordinary times. And when degrees are conferred in May with no formal ceremony, I know that our alumni will take extra care in welcoming the Class of 2020 into the prestigious networks of Vanderbilt graduates around the world.

I look forward to welcoming the Class of 2020 back to campus during next year’s festivities, alongside the many faculty and staff who do so much to honor our graduating students each year.

As we move forward together, I encourage you all to stay connected—with your classmates, your colleagues and the global Vanderbilt community. We are here for you as a university today and for many years to come.

With respect and admiration always,

Susan R. Wente
Interim Chancellor and Provost


View a video message from Interim Chancellor Wente on the university’s difficult decision to postpone Vanderbilt Commencement for the Class of 2020 until spring 2021.

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