Northeastern announces in-person graduate student commencement ceremonies at Fenway Park

Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

Boston’s iconic Fenway Park will be home to not one, not two, but five commencement ceremonies for Northeastern students in May.

Northeastern University will hold in-person commencement exercises for graduate students at the famed ballpark on Sunday, May 9, following the undergraduate ceremonies the previous day. A ceremony for graduates of the College of Professional Studies also will be held at Fenway on Saturday evening, May 8.

Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox

In a message to the university community, David Madigan, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, wrote, “Following my update earlier this week about our spring commencement plans, our graduate students made their voices heard. The profound passion they feel toward their university is inspiring. Their desire to celebrate commencement together, in person, is abundantly clear.”

Like the undergraduate ceremonies, the university will host two commencement exercises for graduate students on May 9, in order to comply with state-mandated gathering limits. Physically distanced graduates will sit in the famed park’s outfield and select seating areas both on and near the field. 

Meredith Patterson, a graduate student in Northeastern’s BS/MPH program said Wednesday that the announcement was “wonderful news for all of us.” 

The program enables students to earn bachelors and masters degrees in public health in five years. Patterson and others in her cohort graduated in May 2020 with their undergraduate degrees in a virtual ceremony made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“As someone who didn’t have the opportunity for an in-person commencement last year, the graduate ceremony this year is exciting,” Patterson said. She added that it was a significant milestone for her family to celebrate, as well. 

Her mother, Karen Patterson, said Wednesday that she’d made dinner reservations in Boston as soon as the announcement went out. 

“I’m just so proud of her,” Karen Patterson said. “Graduation is a rite of passage for students; it’s a way to celebrate everything they’ve accomplished and set

them off toward everything else they’ll accomplish in their lives.” 

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 additional guests can be accommodated as soon as the capacity numbers are finalized. The commencement exercises will be live-streamed so friends and loved ones can attend virtually, as well.

Graduate students also should be on the lookout for more specific information from their relevant deans and the Commencement Office. 

All those in attendance—including faculty and university leaders—will be required to complete a health survey and attestation form saying they have followed Massachusetts’ guidelines. Both graduate ceremonies will be held rain or shine.

In keeping with tradition, the School of Law will hold its own in-person ceremony on Friday, May 14 on or near the Boston campus, and the D’Amore-McKim School of Business will hold its graduate student commencement in early September.

Class of 2021 graduate students will also be part of a week-long commencement celebration which will kick off on Saturday, May 1. Graduate students and undergraduate seniors will be able to don their caps and gowns 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 spirit expressed by our graduate students is yet another reminder that the ‘power of place’ is meaningful to our community—perhaps more than ever as we navigate these unprecedented times,” Madigan wrote in his message. “I look forward to seeing you in May.”

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