West Texas A&M University plans to host three outdoor, in-person commencement ceremonies on May 8, offering Spring 2021 graduates — and anyone who graduated in 2020 — the opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments in a safe but more traditional manner.
These will be the first in-person commencement exercises since December 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the shift to virtual ceremonies in May and December 2020.
The May 8 ceremonies are scheduled to take place at 9 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. in Buffalo Stadium. If the number of graduating students who register for the ceremonies exceeds safety protocol guidelines, an additional ceremony may be added.
“We are looking forward to hosting in-person ceremonies this May,” said University President Dr. Walter Wendler. “Virtual commencement ceremonies offer unique opportunities for graduates, but an in-person celebration brings an energy that an alternative event cannot replicate. This also will allow our 2020 graduates the chance to participate in an in-person ceremony, which we know was important to so many whose graduations were impacted by the pandemic.”
The three ceremonies’ configuration will keep numbers consistent with CDC and state health protocols, including social distancing and face-covering requirements.
“The recommendation from state and local health officials is to prioritize outdoor locations for in-person commencement ceremonies,” said Dr. Neil Terry, executive vice president and provost. “We have not held an outdoor ceremony in several decades but feel fortunate to be in a position to recognize 2020 and 2021 graduates in Buffalo Stadium, which is an excellent facility to celebrate a momentous occasion.”
The 9 a.m. ceremony will celebrate graduates in the Paul Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences and the Sybil B. Harrington College of Fine Arts and Humanities. The 12:30 p.m. event will honor graduates of the Paul and Virginia Engler College of Business and the College of Engineering. And the 4 p.m. exercises will commemorate graduates of the College of Education and Social Sciences and the College of Nursing and Health Sciences.
Graduates must register online to reserve a space to attend a May commencement ceremony due to health and safety protocols. Details about the ceremonies and how to register for the commencement exercises will be sent directly to pending 2021 graduates and those who graduated in 2020 starting the week of March 22. Registration will be open until April 7.
Graduates who have changed contact information should reach out to their respective dean’s office in March to obtain the registration information.
At each ceremony, graduating students will be seated in rows on the field spaced to provide 6 feet around each chair. Although there will be limitations, family and friends will be invited to attend by watching from stadium seating. The number of guests attending will be determined in late March based on the governor’s outdoor stadium guidelines.
“While those limits are fluid at this time, we expect that graduating students each will be able to register six to 10 guests,” Terry said.
The ceremony also will be livestreamed at wtamu.edu and on WT’s YouTube channel.