As it has for the last year and a half during the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Rhode Island is relying on its ingenuity, expertise and teamwork to give the class of 2021 memorable, in-person commencement ceremonies that start Friday, May 21 and end Sunday, May 23, at Meade Stadium.
All participating graduates will dress in traditional regalia, have their names announced, cross the stage and have professional photographs taken. To maintain the health and safety of the URI community, in-person celebrations will be limited to graduates only.
“As we have throughout the pandemic, URI has again marshaled its talent, resources and determination to put together this unique, exciting and safe celebration for our graduates,” President David M. Dooley said. “I have said throughout this crisis that the students, faculty and staff, and all they have done to keep us going with in-person classes and student activities, have made me incredibly proud. And now, as we prepare to celebrate this crowning moment at the conclusion of this profoundly different academic year, our entire community is showing again how much it cares for and invests in our students. Congratulations to all.”
The ceremonies will be streamed on the web for family and friends and recordings of all ceremonies will be posted to the commencement website.
The virtual main ceremony, which will include the keynote address by Mona Hanna-Attisha, degree conferrals by Dooley and Provost Donald H. DeHayes, the undergraduate student speech, and other traditional elements, can be viewed on the Commencement website throughout the weekend.
The in-person ceremonies, which will include brief speeches by the respective college deans, will be held rain or shine.
The weekend’s festivities begin Friday, May 21 with commencement exercises for the university’s Graduate School, College of Nursing and College of Engineering at 10 a.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., respectively. On Saturday, May 22, the College of Health Sciences will celebrate its commencement at 10 a.m. while the Alan Shawn Feinstein College of Education and Professional Studies and College of Business hold their events at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., respectively.
On Sunday, May 23rd, students from the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Pharmacy and College of the Environment and Life Sciences will receive their degrees at 10 a.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., respectively.
The University is particularly proud of the role Meade Stadium will provide in the weekend’s activities.
“I don’t believe a University of Rhode Island outdoor athletic venue has ever been the centerpiece of our commencement ceremonies,” said Shana Greene, director of University Events and chair of the campus-wide Commencement Committee. “Our beautiful Quadrangle has been the traditional home of Commencement, but this year we needed something with more controlled access to keep our students, faculty and staff safe. The new and improved Meade Stadium, with its contrasting patterns of dark and Keaney Blue throughout the facility, has television-quality lights. The stadium will be adorned with academic banners and historic flags. It will be a striking setting for this historic weekend.”
Greene said the Commencement Committee is grateful to URI Health Services, Facilities Operations, including Custodial Services, and Department of Public Safety, including Emergency Management, for their central roles in helping to protect the health and safety of all participants. Custodial Services staff members will sanitize the venue after each college ceremony.
“We have been working nonstop with Facilities Operations, Public Safety, and Health Services to keep on schedule,” Greene said. “We ordered special chairs and protective flooring for the stage so they don’t puncture the field’s artificial surface.”
She said ceremonies will follow mandates of the Rhode Island Department of Health and the URI COVID-19 Task Force. Graduates participating in the ceremonies must register in advance, provide negative COVID-19 test results taken 48 hours before their ceremony and complete the URI health self-assessment before arriving on campus. Participants will also be required to wear masks, and students have been asked to leave their high-heeled shoes at home to protect the surface.
Thanks to the Inner Space Center, URI’s renowned international hub for ocean science exploration and education, which can beam real-time video of the world’s oceans to classrooms and laboratories around the world, the graduates, their families, friends and fellow students will be able to watch all of the action from the virtual main commencement at any time on their computers, phones and tablets.
“We are relying on the Inner Space Center to help us with production of the main ceremony, which will be all virtual, including remarks by President Dooley, our distinguished speakers, the conferring of honorary degrees, musical performances and more,” Greene explained. “The center will weave together different elements for a captivating presentation, including shots of the campus, images of students and aerial shots of the campus.”
In addition, a virtual recognition of all graduates, whether or not they participate in the in-person ceremonies, will be located on the commencement website, and students are being encouraged to submit photos so their name, photo and college will show on the site.
Greene said the event could not have been possible without the efforts of the dedicated and enthusiastic 105-member Commencement Committee.
“Everyone is so excited to be offering in-person ceremonies for our graduates that they are willing to do anything to help,” Greene said. “They are telling me, ‘We will do whatever it takes.’”