Commencement to permanently move from Brookings Quadrangle to Francis Field

| Staff Reporter
Rows of empty white folding chairs sit on a grey carpet, facing a stage with silver chairs, red roses, a wooden podium and a large seal with the WU logo. TV screens, lights and a curtain hang behind the stage.Courtesy of Derek Bruton

The December 2019 Degree Candidate Recognition Ceremony.

After the pandemic forced the University to temporarily relocate Commencement from Brookings Quadrangle to Francis Olympic Field, the move will now be permanent starting next year, with a celebration featuring food, games and entertainment to follow the event.

One factor in the decision to change locations was the space constraints in Brookings Quad. In past years, hundreds of people would have to either stand to watch Commencement or move to another location and view it remotely. Francis Field was the location for Commencement this past May because it allowed for greater social distancing.

“We have quite literally been outgrowing that space [Brookings Quad] in the number of people who attend Commencement,” Director of Commencement Michelle Gelven said.

Over the last few years, it had become increasingly apparent that Brookings Quad could not handle the size of the event anymore.

“Our leadership and Board of Trustees have been discussing [the move] for some years,” Gina Tramelli, Executive Director of Special Events and University Ceremonies, said. “There was a concern among them that [the] Quad was becoming too small.”

Though the initial transition to Francis Field was because of social distancing guidelines, this year administrators expect that pandemic-related precautions will be more relaxed.

“We will most probably not need to do eight ceremonies like we did last year. Unless things get worse, we would only need to do one event,” Tramelli said. In addition, students will likely only be required to maintain one foot of social distancing instead of six feet, she said.

Given the quality of both locations, junior Cassie Jeng is ambivalent about the change.

“Both Brookings and Francis Field are gorgeous locations, so on that front, I don’t think things matter all that much,” Jeng said.

The University will also add a celebration to follow Commencement similar to those of last year’s ceremonies. Following the event, the University will provide food and beverages, lawn games, photo stations and other entertainment, according to Gelven.

Jeng said that the celebration would be a good addition to the event. “You’d get to mingle and talk to your friends,” she said. “The idea gives me a similar vibe to the Party in the Park following Convocation, which was super fun.”

“I think for me, [the best part] is for these students to have an opportunity to be properly celebrated,” Tramelli said. “So many things have been altered because of the pandemic, from their social to academic lives, but I am really hopeful that we get to celebrate them as one class properly.”

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