UConn Graduates and Staff Prepare for In-Person Commencement Exercises

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For the first time since 2019, the University of Connecticut will host traditional in-person commencement ceremonies beginning Saturday.

Last year, the university separated commencement into five days of ceremonies, which took place at Rentschler Field in East Hartford. Graduates and their families had the opportunity to get vaccinated at a drive-thru clinic next door.

The university also announced that masks will be optional, except for UConn Health ceremonies where masks will be required.

On Thursday, lots of UConn students were out enjoying the sunshine and taking Kodak pictures in their cap and gowns.

Shiv Patel is the first person in his family to graduate college. Patel is one of the thousands of UConn students who had to switch to online classes during the COVID19 pandemic.

“A very unique situation, in terms of having online school, in terms of restrictions due to COVID but it was pretty unique and a new experience," said Patel. "I’m pretty happy about that, the less restrictions around graduation.”

The university decided to roll back some of the restrictions for graduation ceremonies, like masking which is encouraged but not required.

"We want people to feel safe and so it’s certainly encouraged, and if you show up and you forget a mask, we’ll get you a mask.” said Tom Breen, UConn's director of news. “The idea is we want to be safe and we want people to feel comfortable, while still doing the traditional commencement.”

The only exception is for UConn Health ceremonies. Masks will still be required for students and families as a precaution for those who care for patients.

Maneuvering through the pandemic and remote learning made for a different type of college experience, according to Chloe Becquey.

“It’s been a long time coming but it also feels like it’s gone by way too fast," said Becquey. "COVID-19 has made things certainly interesting, the year of online classes was not fun, not fun."

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is so big that it's forcing the university to have three separate ceremonies.

The university is set to award degrees to 2,121 graduate students and 5,589 undergraduates. More than a quarter of the undergraduates earning degrees are the first in their families to attend college.

Melissa Nowak is set to pick up her diploma with her mom in the crowd come this weekend.

"She's excited to watch me graduate on Mother's Day at Gampel, she's a huge basketball fan, so it's going to be a great day," said Nowak.

Deep Patal is picking up two degrees, including Electrical Engineering and Mathematics.

"It’s just like a very exciting moment because not only am I excited to finish college, but like my family is excited like through the struggle for the last four years, I made it," said Patal.

University leaders are encouraging families to get to graduation venues early and masks will be provided if you need one.

The ceremonies will be spread out through the weekend into next week. For a full schedule, click here.

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