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Shenandoah University to hold in-person commencement ceremonies for May 2020 grads

shenandoah universityShenandoah University will hold two in-person commencement ceremonies to celebrate students who graduated virtually in May.

Commencement will be held at noon and 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 18, in the James R. Wilkins, Jr. Athletics & Events Center and will include students who graduated in August and December 2019 and May and August 2020.

Each ceremony will last 45 minutes to an hour.

“I am so proud of all of our graduates and what they’ve accomplished,” said President Tracy Fitzsimmons, Ph.D. “This is a tough year to graduate and to enter the job market. These graduates deserve more than anything the recognition and honor that comes with walking across the stage and graduating in front of their peers and loved ones, and so we will indeed honor them while also adhering to the Governor’s mandates and the CDC guidelines. Our plan to offer multiple socially distanced ceremonies with masks has been approved by the local public health officials. Will it be the same as our usual commencement ceremonies? No, but it will still be a very special celebration for each of our graduates.”

The first ceremony will include graduates in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Division of Education and Leadership. So far, 183 attendees, including graduates and their guests, plan to attend. The second ceremony will consist of graduates in Shenandoah Conservatory, the  School of Business, the School of Health Professions, the Eleanor Wade Custer School of Nursing and the Bernard J. Dunn School of Pharmacy. So far, 213 attendees plan to participate.

Speakers include President Fitzsimmons, Ph.D.; Provost Adrienne Bloss, Ph.D.; Vice President for Student Affairs Yolanda Barbier Gibson, D.A.; and Chair of the Board of Trustees Robert Frogale.

This year, the university will enact several measures intended to keep attendees safe. These measures, along with the setup for the event, were approved by the Lord Fairfax Health District.

Each graduation ceremony will have a maximum capacity of 250 people — down from the 5,000 people who typically attend commencement in the Wilkins Athletics & Events Center. Graduates can only bring two guests with them.

All attendees will fill out a symptomology form 48 to 72 hours prior to the event. Shenandoah health care staff will clear them for the ceremonies. Temperature checks will be conducted for everyone entering the venue, masks are required, seats will be 10 feet apart, and deep sanitizing of chairs and bathrooms will be completed before and after each ceremony. The Department of Public Safety and approximately 25 staff members will enforce social distancing and mask wearing inside and outside the building.

Graduates will be able to cross the stage to receive their scroll, but they will not be allowed to pose for photos with the president or academic leadership. A Shenandoah-themed backdrop will be located off to the right of the stage in front of which graduates can be photographed alone after they cross the stage.

Shenandoah faculty and staff are being asked to attend virtually due to social distancing and capacity issues.

The event will be streamed on Facebook Live and via Zoom. A Zoom link will be posted on


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