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Commencement 2021


*Published on February 11, 2021*

To the Northeastern Community,

I am writing to update you on the university’s preliminary plans for commencement exercises this spring. I would like to preface this message by saying that all planning will be guided by science, in compliance with local and state public health guidelines, and with the safety of our community at the forefront.

While we cannot provide definitive details at this time, we realize that students and families need to plan as much as possible. We are sharing what we know today with the understanding that this will be the first of several updates.

2021 Undergraduate Students

Our current plan is for all undergraduate students in the Class of 2021 (December 2020 graduates, May and August 2021 degree candidates) to celebrate commencement at a premiere, outdoor Boston venue on Saturday, May 8th. Based on a set of pandemic projections provided by our faculty experts, and anticipated capacity restrictions, our plan envisions two outdoor ceremonies designed to accommodate all eligible undergraduates (half in each ceremony) and allow each graduating senior to invite one or possibly two guests. We understand the important role family plays in commencement, and we will make every effort to include as many guests as possible for each graduate.

2021 Graduate Students

All graduate students will be invited to attend an in-person ceremony to be held the week of May 3 – May 7. We have initiated discussions with city and state officials about projected gathering limits, and other planning parameters, and how they relate to potential venues. Guests are being factored into this planning as well. We will share additional information about the location and timing as soon as those details are clear. Ceremony plans for the School of Law and the College of Professional Studies will be shared in separate communications from the relevant deans.

2020 Graduates

We are extremely cognizant of the fact that our May 2020 graduates did not have a true Northeastern commencement ceremony last spring. Our Alumni Relations office continues to work with members of the Class of 2020 to determine interest in a Boston-based celebration this spring—perhaps on Friday, May 7th. We believe that graduates of the Class of 2020 should work collaboratively with us to envision, shape, and help execute a celebration that honors their achievements and acknowledges their place in the heart of the Northeastern family. Class of 2020—please be on the lookout for more information from the university’s Alumni Relations team.

In approaching each of these events, we are employing the same rigorous planning and attention to detail that we used for Northeastern’s successful reopening this year. As we have done throughout the pandemic, we will remain agile and be prepared to adjust course as needed. If conditions beyond our control should change, we will pivot to alternative plans and inform the community immediately. As of today, we remain optimistic that by early May these outdoor events, with appropriate physical distancing and other protective measures, will be feasible.

A critical component in this planning has been direct input from our seniors and recent graduates who have shared their visions with us. I’d like to express my thanks to our entire community—from graduates to parents to faculty and staff—who provided input and ideas for how best to mark this significant achievement in our graduates’ lives. We remain committed to ensuring that all graduates experience a celebration acknowledging their remarkable accomplishments during this remarkable time.



David Madigan
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs


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