Commencement returns in person


Andy Manis

The spring 2020 commencement ceremony planned for May 16, 2020 is postponed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The university is considering alternative options to honor the spring graduates

Brooklyn Stevenson, Assistant Campus News Editor

For the first time in since the start of the pandemic, UW-Whitewater will return to hosting an in-person commencement ceremony for graduating students at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 18 in the Kachel Fieldhouse of the Williams Center. Because of COVID-19, previous graduating students did not get an in-person ceremony – instead participating virtually in a digital online commencement.

However, through a semester-long process of planning and talking through different considerations, graduating students will once again be celebrated by the university with family and friends together at their alma mater. Each graduate is allowed to invite up to seven guests. Because COVID-19 is an ongoing situation, changes to the ceremony may be required depending on the status of the pandemic in the region and recommendations from local health departments.

“The commencement committee thought long and hard. It was a semester-long process of planning based on how this first semester was going,” said University Registrar Heather Chermak. “We are doing the best we can with the challenges we have with the space available to us.” 

There are numerous precautions that have to be taken in order to maintain a reasonable level of health and safety. One precaution being taken is having adequate staff on hand to ensure they can respond to normal and emergency concerns. Practices like social distancing are unachievable because of the size of the venue and expected number of participants. However, the committee has worked hard to make it as safe and accessible of an environment as possible. 

“COVID precautions will include having masks available for those who may have forgotten them. Masks are required in the building.  There will be wipes available for speakers at the podium and other standard related materials on-hand as well,” said UW-W Chief of Police Matthew Keiderlen.

The commencement committee includes student government representatives, who work closely with the Chancellor’s Office. They have to not only decide what is the right thing to do, but also plan everything out down to the details. There were many matters to consider.

“The committee’s plans were discussed, vetted, and approved by EOC and then by the Chancellor’s Cabinet. EOC members also discussed the concepts with our local health departments during the planning process.  Considerations were the current Department of Health Services expectations, vaccination rates, positive case rates, public and student desire, and general safety,” said  Keiderlen.

Graduation regalia can be purchased at the University Bookstore ahead of the commencement ceremony. Students can pick up their tickets at the Registrar’s Office from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Parking will be free for attendees in lots 9, 7, 18, 19 and 24. For more information visit

“There are always concerns when a large group of people gather in a confined space, even without COVID issues,” said Keiderlen. “I am very glad to see in-person commencement taking place.  It is a long-standing tradition in higher education as a whole, and frankly the pinnacle for many students’ education journey.”