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UMBC announces in-person Winter 2021 Commencement

For the first time since 2019, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County will hold in-person Commencement ceremonies in December. All undergraduate and graduate students who have been approved for graduation are eligible to be celebrated during Winter Commencement. In addition, alumni who graduated in Winter 2020, Spring 2020 and Spring 2021 were invited to participate because previous ceremonies were held virtually.

This decision comes after deliberation from the Commencement Executive Committee, a cross-campus team that provides high level guidance.

The Commencement Executive Committee is currently composed of representatives from the President’s Office, Provost’s Office, Graduate School, Student Affairs, Enrollment Management, Academic Affairs and the Office of Institutional Advancement. Marie Lilly, Director of Community Engagement at UMBC, reported that the Commencement Executive Committee was an integral part in the push for in-person graduation ceremonies this winter.

According to Provost Philip Rous, it has been a longstanding goal to return to hosting in-person commencements. Leaders worked closely with public health officials in order to pinpoint when the shift could be made to celebrate graduates face-to-face and the established the safety of in-person gatherings based on three criteria: vaccination rates of UMBC Community members, the COVID-19 positivity rate on campus and the capacity of the Chesapeake Insurance Employers Arena.

The Retriever Ready Public Health Dashboard reports that 98% of students, 99% of faculty and 96% of staff at UMBC are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 as of Nov. 11, 2021. The cumulative campus positivity rate since the beginning of the current semester is 0.4%. The Baltimore County positivity percentage is currently 3.5%.

We know that these improved conditions are very much the result of the hard work of our student body to keep our community safe through masking, distancing and other safety measures,” stated Rous. “Despite the stresses of the pandemic, our students have remained committed to their [studies] and demonstrated a resilience and grit that we are eager to celebrate.”

Because of capacity restrictions in the Chesapeake Insurance Employers Arena, only a limited number of family members are allowed per graduate. Eligible graduates should plan to invite two guests to attend Commencement, as stated in the original communication by the Commencement Executive Committee. 

In order to accommodate public health guidelines, the ceremony will be broken up into three groups from December 21 to 22: Graduate students will be celebrated first; followed by graduates of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, the School of Social Work, and the Erickson School of Aging Studies will be honored; and then students of the College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences and the College of Engineering and Information Technology.

Upon consultation with public health experts and the COVID-19 Planning and Coordinating Committee, the decision was made to implement masking and social distancing at the in-person ceremonies. Guests will sit together in pods of two, separated from one another by empty seats. Vaccines will be encouraged, but not required for guests of commencement. 

In addition to UMBC, other colleges across the state, such as University of Maryland, College Park and University of Baltimore, are also choosing to hold commencement ceremonies in person this winter. While UMD will allow four guests per graduate, UMB will reportedly not admit any guests at this time.

All graduates must register by 5pm on Sunday, November 28 in order to be celebrated at this year’s Winter Commencement.

Article by Annamaria Palmiero (