UMD to hold online commencement in May, open December ceremony for spring grads

The University of Maryland is planning a virtual commencement ceremony for students slated to graduate this spring, university President Wallace Loh announced in a campuswide email Monday afternoon.

The virtual ceremony, which will be streamed on May 22, will feature a number of speakers, including alumnus House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. Students will also be invited to attend the in-person ceremony scheduled for this December.

While Loh recognized the semester isn’t ending in a way that anyone expected, he wrote that the university is still looking forward to commemorating the graduating class.

“It is important to do so, because commencement is an important rite of passage. It marks the end of an academic journey and the start of a new chapter in one’s life journey,” he wrote in the email.

[Read more: UMD cancels in-person graduation ceremonies, classes this semester]

Loh added that the ceremony will also mark his “graduation” from the university, as he retires as president after a ten-year-long tenure. Engineering school dean Darryll Pines is set to take over his role in July.

As part of the spring commencement plan, graduates, along with guests, will also receive tickets to a football game Sept. 12, according to the email. Two former students — the first African-American male undergraduate and first African-American female admitted to the university — will also each receive honorary doctorates at the ceremony.

Additionally, Loh wrote, the university will be sending care packages to soon-to-be graduates, including the commencement program and other items. Graduating seniors will also receive a cap and tassel, he wrote.

[Read more: Now scattered across the country, UMD seniors mourn abrupt end to time on campus]

The virtual commencement ceremony will also include crowdsourced photos, videos and messages, Loh wrote. Individual schools and colleges will host their own ceremonies on the same date, displaying the names of their graduates.

Loh wrote in the email that a group led by Provost Mary Ann Rankin had received more than 500 suggestions from students — and many more from faculty, staff and administrators — about how seniors could be commemorated.

In a press release about the commencement plan, Student Government Association President Ireland Lesley said she appreciated that the university collected student feedback before making a decision.

“As a graduating senior, I am heartbroken that commencement will not occur the way I’ve envisioned it for the past four years,” she said. “I know that many of my fellow graduating seniors feel the same way. However, I am grateful that we will get the chance to celebrate our experience and achievements at UMD together.”

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