More details about Commencement 2021

March 31, 2021

Dear Brandeis Community — especially our 2021 graduates and their families:

Since announcing our plans for Commencement several weeks ago, staff and faculty have been focused on creating an inspiring and celebratory send-off for our graduates, even as we continue to navigate COVID. We are pleased to now share more details about the exciting in-person and virtual celebrations that we are planning. Our hybrid approach to Commencement will span the weeks leading up to the conferral of degrees on May 23, enabling all members of our community to participate wherever they are. We want to say how grateful we all are to the graduating students who have been an integral part of this process, bringing us terrific ideas and sharing vital feedback. These students are demonstrating the resilience, creativity, and strength shown by so many members of our community this year.

While this outline contains the elements we are planning, many more details will be shared with graduating students in the coming weeks. If you are earning your degree this year, please stay alert for these communications, as some will require your response. Graduate students at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, and the Brandeis International Business School will also be receiving more details specific to their schools’ celebrations.

The Moment You’ve Been Waiting For: Many graduating students have said they very much want an opportunity to stand onstage in academic regalia, take a picture, and feel the pride and accomplishment of completing their degree. So we will be transforming Levin Ballroom into a miniaturized version of the stage at Gosman. From May 5 through 7, students receiving their undergraduate and graduate degrees will have a chance to take the spotlight on this new stage. Senior members of Brandeis administration will be on hand to make sure each student is greeted by name as their photo is taken.

Senior celebrations/Senior Send-Off: Starting in April, seniors will be treated to in-person and virtual games, outdoor gatherings, and giveaways. For students living close to campus, there will also be an opportunity to sign up for professional graduation photos to be shot in different campus locations. In-person celebrations (with appropriate physical distancing) will occur before residence halls close on May 17 to enable as many seniors as possible to participate.

Senior swag: Undergraduate seniors living away from Brandeis will receive a package in the mail from Brandeis with festive contents to help them celebrate this momentous occasion, including graduation caps and tassels. Seniors living nearby can pick their packages up as part of Senior Send-Off.

Diploma ceremonies: Academic departments are planning smaller, personalized virtual celebrations for their majors, master’s, and PhD candidates, where students will be recognized for their accomplishments, awards will be given, and students can see their classmates and the faculty who helped them reach this milestone.

Commencement Day (May 23): Our virtual celebration of the day our graduates receive their degrees will not be short on pomp and circumstance. Graduate and undergraduate speakers are in the process of being selected; they will join our commencement speaker in a video broadcast. The event will honor our graduates, their families, and our soon-to-be-announced honorary degree recipients.

Late spring 2022: When it is safe for our 2020 and 2021 graduates to recognize each other by their smiles rather than their masks, we plan to have an in-person celebration/reunion complete with everything that makes a typical Commencement special — the cheers, hugs and person-to-person contacts we would be forced to avoid were we to have a large, in-person ceremony at this time.

At any future commencement: We know that it may be some time before some of our newest alumni are able to return to Brandeis. We will be proud to welcome and acknowledge members of the undergraduate and graduate classes of 2020 and 2021 who wish to march at Commencements in the future.

We recognize there is lingering disappointment that we will not have the traditional in-person Commencement ceremony that has come to mark the successful completion of a Brandeis degree. We have concluded that with cases starting to rise nationwide, and with variants present in Massachusetts, a traditional ceremony that would include only a limited number of graduates, seated distantly in masks, without family or friends present, would be a poor substitution for the type of celebration that COVID still prevents us from having at this time. We believe the in-person and virtual events our teams are building will provide our graduates and their families with meaningful ways to mark this significant milestone, and we look forward to celebrating our newest alumni in person as soon as possible.

Congratulations to all who are earning degrees!

Ron Liebowitz, President
Carol A. Fierke, PhD’84, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
Raymond Lu-Ming Ou, Vice President of Student Affairs