GREENSBORO — Add UNCG to the long list of local colleges and universities that will recognize its graduates in person this year.
The university announced Thursday a change in its commencement plans: UNCG will now hold five commencement ceremonies over two days in May to recognize both the classes of 2020 and 2021.
All events will be held in the Greensboro Coliseum, UNCG's traditional commencement venue.
There will be three ceremonies May 7 for undergraduates and master's graduates from the class of 2021. Here's the schedule:
• 9 a.m.: For students earning degrees from the School of Health and Human Sciences, the School of Nursing, the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, UNCG Online, interdisciplinary masters programs and Beyond Academics.
• 1 p.m.: For students earning degrees from the College of Visual and Performing Arts, the School of Education and the Bryan School of Business and Economics.
• 5 p.m.: For students earning degrees from the College of Arts and Sciences.
There will be more two more commencement ceremonies on May 8:
• 9 a.m.: For all undergraduate and master's students who earned their degrees in May, August or December 2020, regardless of college or school.
• 1 p.m.: The doctoral hooding ceremony for all 2020 and 2021 doctoral degree recipients from all UNCG schools and colleges.
Graduates will be limited to two guests apiece, and all attendees will have to wear masks. The ceremonies will be livestreamed.
Thursday's announcement came three weeks after UNCG said it would have a hybrid celebration to recognize the class of 2021: a virtual commencement coupled with an optional walk-the-stage event held on campus near the date of the online event. UNCG has held its last two commencements — last May and in December — online because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the days after UNCG told students of its plans, several other area institutions — N.C. A&T, Guilford College, High Point University and all four-year schools in Winston-Salem — said they would hold in-person commencements. Many of these schools will move their ceremonies to football or baseball stadiums to comply with social-distancing protocols.
On Wednesday, as more North Carolinians are getting vaccinated and rates of COVID-19 infections continue to fall, Gov. Roy Cooper announced that he will raise gathering limits in multiple types of settings statewide. Starting Friday, indoor and outdoor auditoriums and sports arenas can have up to 50% of their usual capacity as long as audiences wear masks and stay 6 feet apart.
UNCG's class of 2021 apparently lobbied the university to consider an in-person ceremony.
"Our graduates and their families and friends have expressed their desire to come together, safely and socially distanced, to celebrate this monumental moment. We heard you," the university said in a statement. "And we are pleased that, with the assistance of the Greensboro Coliseum, we can offer in-person commencement ceremonies that follow COVID-19 safety protocols."
Chancellor Frank Gilliam said in a statement that 2020 and 2021 graduates "have persevered in the face of enormous challenges. Each of our graduates has shown tremendous resilience and the kind of compassion and sense of community that speaks well of our collective character.
"We look forward to celebrating their accomplishments in-person this May."
Social media reaction was swift and positive:
This is exciting news for our newest #SpartanNurses!— UNCGNursing (@UNCGNursing) March 25, 2021
The @UNCG School of Nursing Class of 2021 (BSN and master’s students) will be recognized at 9 a.m. May 7.
The Class of 2020 will be honored at 9 a.m. May 8.
Doctoral hooding for both classes will be at 1 p.m. May 8. https://t.co/gli0urpRDV
UNCG letting us walk in May 🔥— JiMVP SZN 🏀🔥☕️ (@r3pliku) March 25, 2021
Contact John Newsom at (336) 373-7312 and follow @JohnNewsomNR on Twitter.