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What to expect at virtual commencement

May 6, 2020 By Kayla Huynh

UW-Madison is gearing up for its first-ever virtual commencement, and it’s no question that this is a unique time to be graduating. 

But it can still be an exciting time, too.

A first-ever virtual commencement means exploring new ways to connect to Badgers across the globe and a chance to celebrate with loved ones, whether at home or through virtual platforms. Though it certainly doesn’t replace an in-person celebration (we’ll have that when it’s safe to do so), the class of 2020 can still come together by taking part in the festivities. 

A first-ever virtual commencement also might mean you have no idea what to expect. Here are a few of the things to look forward to on Saturday, May 9 at noon. The ceremony video, and more, will be available at  

Get the whole experience or choose your own adventure

Viewers can experience all of the commencement fun from beginning to end in a comprehensive video. This option transports the audience from their homes to the virtual commencement stage. 

Or, participants can choose their own adventure! Selected speakers will be featured in standalone videos, allowing people to pick and choose which clips they want to see. 

This means that if you really love a specific part of commencement, you can watch it again and again… and again. 

Remarks from keynote speaker James Patterson and Chancellor Rebecca Blank

James Patterson, an award-winning author, will give remarks to the class of 2020. This video will take you right into Patterson’s home as he presents his speech — because even famous writers have to do their social distancing, too!

 Chancellor Rebecca Blank will also offer her words of wisdom to the class of 2020, a charge that is sure to get students and parents in a celebratory mood.  

Speeches from the senior class president and vice president 

The senior class president Lauren Sorensen and vice president Alyssa Birkeland will share perspectives of their time at UW–Madison. Much like other students, the two have now faced unique challenges due to the pandemic and are also planning to tune in from home, and connect with family and friends virtually. As fellow students, their speeches will undoubtedly showcase similarities with the thousands of Badgers who are in the same situation. 

Musical performances 

There will be a special guest performance featured in the online commencement, which will definitely get you off your couch and on your feet. These performers are well-loved on campus and have some serious talent, but we’ll save that for your viewing pleasure.

Jump Around from home

No UW commencement would be complete without a third quarter Jump Around. Thankfully, with the help of House of Pain, Badgers from all over the world will be able to take part in one of the university’s most cherished traditions. 

One Badger Nation

Content highlighting the UW student experience will give graduates the chance to reflect on their favorite memories of campus. Whether it’s days at the Terrace or lounging on Bascom Hill, these bittersweet features will allow students to reminisce on all the times they’ve had together. 

Conferral of degrees and tassel turns

Deans from each school and college will confer bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees to candidates, marking their transition from students to alumni. And of course, tassels will be turned! Though students won’t be physically next to others in doing so, they should know that someone — somewhere — is turning their tassel with them. 

The virtual commencement videos will be released at on Saturday, at noon. But grads can take part in their own celebration whenever they’d like from wherever they are! The ceremony video will remain on the site for days to come, so plan a time that works best for you and your Badger entourage. UW will be sharing updates throughout the day on their social media accounts, and anyone can join in on all the Badger grad fun. Also, also many schools and colleges will be having their own virtual ceremonies.

If you’re celebrating this weekend, be sure to also mark off these items on the grad checklist and share your festivities with us using #UWGrad. To all UW graduates, congrats and On, Wisconsin!