Northeastern to hold undergraduate commencement ceremonies in Fenway Park

Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

Boston’s iconic Fenway Park will be the setting for Northeastern University’s 119th commencement exercises in a historic graduation double-header, allowing the undergraduate Class of 2021 to safely celebrate in person at an internationally known venue.

Physically distanced graduates will sit in the famed park’s outfield and select seating areas both on and near the field. To comply with state-mandated gathering limits, approximately 4,000 graduating seniors will divide into two groups, allowing morning and afternoon ceremonies on Saturday, May 8. University officials are aiming to allow each graduate to invite one guest. Total capacity at the park is still being determined based on the need to provide adequate spacing. The Office of the Provost will confirm if guests can be accommodated as soon as the capacity numbers are finalized.

In a message to the Northeastern community, David Madigan, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, underscored that all seating and other commencement activities will adhere to state and local public health guidelines. Undergraduates and others in attendance—including faculty and university leaders—will be required to complete a health survey and attestation form saying they’ve followed Massachusetts’ guidelines.

Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox

“After all that our students have achieved to reach this milestone, we can’t wait to create a commencement experience they will never forget,” said Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern. “I congratulate all Class of 2021 graduates on their remarkable accomplishments—inside the classroom and around the world—and I can’t wait to celebrate with you on May 8.”

The 2021 graduating class includes students from all 50 U.S. states and more than 100 countries. University officials announced the Fenway venue as soon as arrangements were finalized, allowing those graduating to plan accordingly.

The announcement comes as vaccinations continue to steadily increase across the country and in Massachusetts, and as COVID-19 cases continue to drop. The Northeastern planning team also consults regularly with scientific experts on the university’s faculty, including physicians, epidemiologists, and network scientists.

Graduating students will be provided tickets electronically, with their seat locations as well as the best gate and time to enter the ballpark. Arrival times will be staggered to encourage healthy distancing. Both May 8 ceremonies will take place rain or shine.

President Aoun, Provost Madigan, and a platform party of deans, trustees, and other university leaders will take the stage in center field. Additional speakers and elements of the program will be announced in the coming weeks. Diplomas will not be handed out at the ceremony.

Consistent with past years, the commencement exercises will be livestreamed so friends and loved ones can attend virtually; each ceremony is expected to last about 90 minutes.

Class of 2021 graduate students will be part of week-long commencement celebration which will kick off on Saturday, May 1. Graduate students and undergraduate seniors will be able to don their cap and gown and walk a mile-long processional route that winds through campus and ends with opportunities for celebratory photos in Matthews Arena on the Northeastern campus.

The route will feature colorful pop up celebration tunnels, a ticker-tape area where loved ones can leave messages, and a 2021 installation and signature wall. The rolling processions will take place from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. every afternoon from May 3 through May 7, allowing seniors and graduate students to walk with friends. A virtual commencement celebration will take place Friday, May 7 for 2021 graduate students.

In consultation with members of the Class of 2020, the university is planning an in-person graduation celebration to coincide with Homecoming Week in November. The event, aimed at honoring the 2020 graduates’ hard work, will be designed largely by the former students who missed a full celebration last spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Festivities will be planned in coordination with members of the Class of 2020 and be capped off by an in-person graduation ceremony.

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