Rice announces plans for 2021 Commencement

Ceremony for Class of 2020 also scheduled


President David Leebron, Provost Reginald DesRoches, Dean of Undergraduates Bridget Gorman and Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Seiichi Matsuda sent the following message to the Rice community March 5 regarding 2021 Commencement plans:

We write today with an important update on Rice University’s plans for our Commencement ceremonies, scheduled for Friday and Saturday, May 14 and 15. As noted below, these also include an opportunity for the Class of 2020 to return to campus for a commencement ceremony.

It has been one year since the coronavirus pandemic led us to move classes to a remote format while preserving on-campus research, and to send home most undergraduate students who were living on campus. In the time since, we have adapted to the challenge by operating in dual modes, supporting experiences for our students, faculty and staff that are both in-person and remote. We have been able to return our campus to about 60% residential occupancy. The vaccine rollout is progressing, offering hope that a return to our usual ways of operating is on the fall horizon. But now we face the difficult task of balancing our desire to celebrate our graduating students with the need to consider the current state of the pandemic, particularly our obligation to protect the health of all who participate in any events that we hold.

After careful consideration of these circumstances and in consultation with public health experts, we are announcing that Rice will host in-person commencement ceremonies for graduates in accordance with public health protocols, but families and guests will attend only virtually.

This decision reflects our priority to provide graduates the opportunity to participate in a meaningful in-person commencement ceremony — to walk across a stage and be celebrated, a moment reflecting the culmination of years of hard work. We deeply regret that families and friends will be unable to witness this event in person, but COVID-19 continues to pose significant risks to public health and safety, especially in large gatherings. We have carefully analyzed the capacity of our venues for graduation, and with the advice of our students we are prioritizing the in-person experience for our graduates. We hope that all of our graduates and their families and friends will be able to plan ways to celebrate their amazing accomplishments virtually during Commencement weekend, and together in smaller gatherings at a later time.

Commencement ceremonies will proceed as follows:

-108th Commencement ceremony for Class of 2021 undergraduates will be held the evening of Friday, May 14, in the Academic Quadrangle.

-108th Commencement ceremony for Class of 2021 advanced degrees and doctoral students will be held the morning of Saturday, May 15, in the Academic Quadrangle.

-107th Commencement ceremony for Class of 2020 undergraduate, advanced Degrees and doctoral students will be held the evening of Saturday, May 15, in the Academic Quadrangle.

-Combined 107th and 108th Commencement ceremony for Class of 2020 and 2021 MBA degree recipients from the Jones Graduate School of Business will be held the morning of Friday, May 14, in the Academic Quadrangle.

Additional details about the programs for each ceremony are forthcoming. Please check back on Rice’s Commencement website, where further details will be added in the coming weeks. If you have questions, please email us at commencement@rice.edu.

For members of the Class of 2020, we do hope you will be able to join us on the evening of Saturday, May 15, to celebrate your achievements in person. In order to plan properly for the moment when we will read your name as you walk across the stage, you will need to let us know that you plan to attend. You can do so by filling out this form by Monday, April 5. Please note that all Rice University alumni who completed their degree in the previous summer (August 2019) or Academic Year 2020 (December 2019 and May 2020) are invited to participate.

Also know that we will welcome anyone who is eligible but unable to attend these events this year to join the ceremonies next year, in 2022. That includes students in the current class who prefer not to attend due to this year’s unique restrictions on the ceremony’s format.