Pitt-Bradford 2021 graduate and Student Government Association president Marissa Merritt practices crossing the stage during Pitt-Bradford’s commencement ceremony rehearsal on Friday.

Nearly 200 students will graduate from the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford on Sunday afternoon during an innovative, on-campus outdoor ceremony designed to help support the health and safety of graduates, their families, and faculty and staff.

Redesigning commencement this year, from the usual ceremony in the KOA Arena with a thousand guests in attendance, was necessary to give graduates an on-campus ceremony, which they were hoping for, that also adhered to all COVID-19 protocols.

“Commencement Day is an important and exciting day for our graduates and their families, as well as all of us at Pitt-Bradford,” said Dr. Catherine Koverola, president.

“This year, we created this innovative, on-campus celebration so our graduates, as well as our December 2019 and 2020 graduates, could receive the recognition they deserve while also helping to keep them and their families healthy and safe.”

In addition to everyone wearing face coverings and being appropriately distanced, the event will be held outdoors.

A stage has been erected in the parking lot adjacent to the Harriett B. Wick Chapel. Graduates, dressed in academic regalia, and their families will remain in their vehicles and drive to the stage area in an organized manner. As each vehicle arrives at the stage, the graduates will leave their vehicles, walk across the stage to receive their diplomas, have their pictures taken, and receive congratulations from administrators and small gifts from the Pitt-Bradford Alumni Association.

As students walk across the stage one at a time, their families will remain in their vehicles and follow alongside them, then pick up their graduates as they leave the stage.

Joining the Class of 2021 on Sunday will be the December 2019 and 2020 graduates whose commencement ceremony, which came at the beginning of the pandemic last April, was held entirely online after students returned home to finish the spring term remotely. Those graduates were invited to take part in this weekend’s ceremony so they could be recognized during the on-campus ceremony.

Members of the faculty and staff will be part of the ceremony to help cheer on the graduates. Dressed in regalia, faculty and staff will be lined up — and properly distanced — along the campus loop. Additionally, the alumni association will host its annual cap decorating contest for graduates virtually.

“For the past few months, many people on our campus worked together and showed great creativity and flexibility in creating a commencement ceremony unlike any other ever held on our campus,” Koverola said. “I am very proud of their commitment to ensure that our graduates are recognized despite the challenging circumstances.”

Commencement ceremonies are set to begin at noon with short remarks by Koverola. The Class of 2021 will be presented by Dr. Emily Williams, vice president and dean of academic affairs, as well as the chairs of the five academic divisions.

After Koverola confers their degrees, Williams will present the December 2019 and 2020 graduates, and Koverola will recognize them.

Even though this year’s ceremony will be very different than previous commencements, it will end in traditional manner with the singing of the alma mater.

This year’s ceremony, as well as the nursing pinning at 9 a.m. Sunday, will be livestreamed and available on the University’s Facebook page, YouTube channel and website.

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