You are here: American University President Announcements March 30, 2020

AU Memo Letterhead

Dear AU Community,

As we continue to take the important steps as a community and as a nation to reduce the spread of COVID-19, I want to thank you for your support, flexibility, and patience with all the changes that have occurred. This disruptive and unsettling time has prompted many understandable questions from our community. Today, I want to share important updates about one of the most frequent questions we hear, “What is happening with commencement?”

Commencement is one of the most important, memorable, and personal moments for our students and families. It celebrates a profound achievement, and it marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter for graduates as they receive their diplomas and hear the excitement of loved ones echo through Bender Arena. I love every moment of commencement, because for each one of the 3,000 hands I shake, I know there is a book that could be written about the journey that brought them to that stage. I also love commencement because it is an inspiring culmination of our educational mission. The celebration ties together our many traditions and our ongoing purpose with our outstanding students who take their AU experiences with them as they set out to change our changing world.

All of this is why I have taken the time to make a difficult decision. It pains me to announce that due to the ongoing challenge of COVID-19, the May 2020 Spring Commencement ceremonies, including for the Washington College of Law (WCL), will be conducted online. Members of the Class of 2020 will also be invited to a special dedicated ceremony in December 2020 that will feature all of the celebrations of commencement.

I know this decision is disappointing, and my heart goes out to every member of the Class of 2020. We hoped we could keep commencement as scheduled, but as soon as it became clear that hosting a large in-person gathering wouldn’t be safe for our community, we wanted a plan to make this occasion as special as possible in a new and different way. We took a thorough approach to consider all the potential options. We especially wanted to hear from our students, and I want to thank School of Public Affairs senior Yazan Hanouneh for collecting nearly 300 student responses to a commencement survey. We explored whether the ceremony could be rescheduled in August, but the ongoing uncertainty of COVID-19 makes it nearly impossible to select a summer date that might not be impacted.

To our undergraduate, graduate, and law school students who are completing your studies, I know the absence of a traditional commencement ceremony in May is painful. You are about to complete years of intense study, and you deserve to be celebrated! I can promise we will honor your hard work, your academic achievements, and everything you have done to arrive at this wonderful moment in your life.

We have some exciting ideas for May, including recognitions from your schools and colleges, engagement with alumni, and sharing tributes and memories on social media. I will have more to say in our online ceremony, but for now, please accept my congratulations on your journey and all that you have accomplished. AU is proud to be a part of your story and proud that you are an important part of writing ours.

This moment is difficult for our entire community, and we are all adjusting to the upheaval caused by COVID-19. To our graduates, please know that we all share in your heartbreak right now. But if there is one thing I know to be 100 percent true about American University students, it’s that you are resilient, generous, and service-minded. You will not let this deter you or diminish your spirit. In fact, I know you will turn this challenge into an opportunity to make our ever-changing world a better place. That’s why we will always remember and celebrate the Class of 2020.

Be safe and be well.