Why are we not hosting in-person commencement in May 2021?

The University Commencement Committee began meeting in July 2020 to explore options to celebrate our 2021 graduates. Since Fall 2020, a team (including student representatives) has been researching innovative ways to make Commencement 2021 a memorable experience for our graduates. The decision made to host virtual commencement ceremonies was thoughtful, intentional, and data-driven. In order to give you and your families ample time to plan for this celebratory occasion, we had promised the graduates a final decision by January 2021 without the ability to predict if or how health and safety guidelines could change in May. University Administration, including College Deans, all agreed that once the final decision was made in January the University would commit to that plan. Colleges decided that they would make individual determinations to plan in-person celebrations if they could be safely hosted in addition to the virtual ceremonies. 

As the country begins to have more optimism with vaccines and lower COVID-19 infection rates, we understand the desire to participate in an in-person ceremony. While the country slowly opens, there are still current restrictions on large gatherings and due to the lack of an adequate physical space to accommodate crowds, WesternU is committed to hosting 11 virtual ceremonies. This decision was not made lightly, and we have done our best to navigate local, state, and federal guidelines while holding the safety of our community at the upmost of importance. And finally, although we all would have preferred an in-person ceremony where we can celebrate with you face-to-face, we sincerely wish you and your loved ones a healthy, happy, and safe journey ahead. We are proud and honored to celebrate our amazing and resilient 2021 graduates. 

WesternU logo
Frequently Asked Questions

How can I view the ceremony walk-throughs to help me prepare for the day? 

The Graduate walk-through is available here (WesternU credentials are required). A brief training for faculty, staff and administration is available here.

What are the ceremony dates and times?  

Please go to this link to learn the exact date and time of your college’s/program’s ceremony:  2021 Schedule of Ceremonies | Commencement (westernu.edu) 

How do my family and friends around the world see the ceremony? 

Your guests can view the ceremony from https://commencement.westernu.edu. Guests do not need to log in. 

What is a family hooder? 

Please identify one to two loved ones to place your academic hood during the ceremony. These important people are called “family hooders.” Practice hooding with your loved ones a few times before your ceremony. An instructional video will be sent to you via e-mail on May 10, 2021.

As a graduand*, how do I log in to my ceremony?  

A week before your ceremony, we will send you instructions on how to log in to access the virtual online platform. Your friends and family all over the world will be able to view the ceremony in real time, but they will not be logging in.  

 Please note that participation in your ceremony is mandatory graduation requirement (unless you have been excused by your Dean/or Dean’s designee). Logging in to the ceremony will serve as a means for us to take ‘attendance’.  You will need to log in 60min prior to the start of your ceremony. 

*the formal term for a student who is eligible to graduate 

Why do I need to log in 60 minutes prior to the ceremony? 

The technical team will be working behind the scenes to line you up for the live hooding portion of the event. The production company will be handling event logistics and ensuring all graduates are accounted for prior to the start. More instructions will be provided by the technical team during the ceremony.   

During the 60 minutes, there will be a virtual photo booth that you can save photos with your classmates. This is a good time to double check your “display name” as it must match your legal/diploma/program name exactly; this is critical for the order of exercises. The digital program will be available at the start of your ceremony. 

This will also give you time to check your surroundings for lighting as well as your internet connection. If you have difficulty logging in, there will be a technical team available to assist you. They cannot, however, assist you with your personal internet connection so be sure to have a strong signal prior to the start of the ceremony. 

If there is more than one graduate is in the same room, do we all need to log in? 

Due to the digital line-up all graduates need to be logged in separately, even if you are joining the ceremony with a graduating roommate/friend please be sure to log in individually.

How can I prepare for the ceremony?  

A few days ahead of the ceremony, we ask that you test your internet speed so that you can be assured that you will be able to be live streamed and participate in the ceremony. Here are instructions on how to test your internet speed. 

 On the day of the ceremony, pick a suitable location in your home that is well lit, comfortable and is wide enough to accommodate your family hooders (one to two people). Feel free to decorate the area to your heart’s desire.  

What do we wear for the ceremony?  

To participate in your ceremony, you are required to wear the regalia that was sent to you from Jostens. Upon receipt of your graduation gown from Jostens, promptly remove it from the packaging and hang it up. To remove wrinkles, you may choose to press with a cool iron, use a steamer or hang gown in a steamy room. For the ceremony, please wear your graduation gown, any cords that we have sent you, no more than one stole (if applicable), your tam/cap and tassel. Your tassel should be on the right-side of your face. DO NOT wear your hood, but make sure it is laid out near you for easy access.  

 We recommend that guests in the room with you wear “dressy-casual” clothing as they may be on camera and recorded during the ceremony. Guests that wish to not be visible or recorded should remain out of frame during the ceremony.  

What can I expect during the ceremony?  

Graduands must log in to the ceremony at least  (60 minutes)  ahead of time. You’ll be able to use the photo booth feature and interact with your classmates. You’ll also have access to the digital program and other features of the virtual ceremony. Your friends and family all over the world will be able to view the ceremony in real time, but they will not be logging in. The ceremonies can be viewed live from https://commencement.westernu.edu/ceremony-webcast/ 

We will begin the ceremony at the scheduled start time. Included in the order of exercises is the family hooding” section. As your family members hood you, we will spotlight and live stream you as we all share in the joy of those precious moments you will share with your family.  


How long is the ceremony? 

Depending on the size of your graduating class, expect your commencement ceremony to last for one (1) to two (2) hours. We recommend that you don’t schedule anything for at least two (2) hours from the start of your scheduled ceremony time.  

Please note that participation in your graduation ceremony is mandatory (unless you have been excused by your Dean/or Dean’s designee). Logging in to the ceremony will serve as a means for us to take ‘attendance’.  

If you have any questions that we can answer, please email them to commencement@westernu.edu and we will use this space to answer questions and provide clarity. 

Will my ceremony be recorded?

Yes, all commencement ceremonies will be virtual and recorded. Please be advised that individuals participating in family hooding, as well as anyone in close proximity to the graduate, will be captured in any images related to the event, live streamed, and included in the final recording.  recording.

Will there be a printed program?

In collaboration with University Publications, we are planning to produce a printed and digital program, as we typically do, to memorialize Commencement 2021. Two copies of the printed program will be available for each graduate.

How soon will my diploma be ready?

This depends on your program. Diplomas cannot be released until the Registrar’s Office confirms that all graduation requirements have been met. Oath administration, for specific colleges, is usually done during the commencement ceremony is a graduation requirement.  CeDiplomas will be made available to all graduates who have completed all graduation requirements the day of their commencement ceremony (for more information on CeDiplomas,please visit the Registrar Office’s website). Diploma pick-up details are still in development at this time, but please note, diplomas that are not picked up from WesternU will be mailed out by May 28, 2021, to all graduates who have completed all degree requirements.   

How will graduates receive their cap, gown, and hood?

Your regalia (cap/tam, gown and hood) is ordered from Jostens and was shipped directly to you. If you have any questions about your order you can contact Jostens at 1-800-488-2173. 

Will students receive a refund of the $350 graduate fee?

Each graduate who was assessed the $350 graduation fee will receive a $165 refund ($150 refund + $15 to cover regalia shipping costs you paid directly to Jostens). These funds will be transferred directly to student bank accounts by April 9, 2021.