Editor’s note: Story updated June 10 9:34 a.m. to note that Nilo Cruz will speak at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television’s ceremony.
While fully in-person ceremonies are still envisioned for a safer date for the classes of 2020 and 2021, UCLA’s commencement season will be a hybrid of new and old graduation traditions, with a mix of virtual commencements and masked, in-person celebrations to meet the moment.
This year’s graduation festivities began May 15 and continue through June 15 for the roughly 14,000 undergraduate and graduate students receiving diplomas this year. This year also marks the first all-campus graduate procession, which will span six days.
Speakers like Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, Grammy-nominated violinist Regina Carter, and artist and social justice advocate Mr. Wash will be among those giving the graduates an inspiring send-off. NASA astronaut Megan McArthur will deliver a speech from the International Space Station, and U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-California) already addressed UCLA School of Law graduates at their May 21 virtual event.
UCLA’s largest ceremony celebrates the more than 9,600 UCLA College undergraduates expected to graduate this year with a virtual commencement on Friday, June 11. The keynote address will be delivered by alumnus and social justice advocate D’Artagnan Scorza, a community leader and Navy veteran who founded the nonprofit Social Justice Learning Institute and is the first executive director of racial equity for Los Angeles County. UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and Nobel laureate Professor Andrea Ghez will join Scorza, who is president of the alumni association, in honoring the class of 2021.
In a survey, this year’s graduates made clear that it wouldn’t feel like graduation without a walk across a stage. While the pandemic made a purely virtual graduation unavoidable in 2020, this year, decreases in COVID-19 infection rates mean that UCLA students can have masked, physically distant versions of the iconic graduation stage crossing that would normally happen in smaller school and departmental celebrations across campus. Several schools and student groups will host such events in the campus’s L.A. Tennis Center, and thousands of students have reserved times to participate in UCLA’s first campus-wide graduate walk with up to two guests through Drake Stadium.
From 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 10-15, up to 230 graduates per hour will take a celebratory stroll along the Drake track with their guests, all in masks and presenting proof of either vaccination or a negative COVID test. As classical Royce Hall organ music plays in the background, the student may remove their mask to cross an outdoor stage as their name is read, while their masked guests watch from the track and off-site family and friends watch a livestream.
Dozens of other celebrations will take place in June for schools, departments and affinity groups, such as the Academic Advancement Program’s drive-through event on June 4, the First-Gen Toast on June 5, a virtual Lavender Graduation for LGBTQ students on June 12, and an in-person UCLA Athletics ceremony on June 15.
The Herb Alpert School of Music will experiment with the virtual format to go beyond lectern speeches, and the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA will graduate its most diverse class yet, replacing the opening prayer and closing benediction with an original poem by the school’s first class poet and a shared class promise delivered in 20 languages.
A full list of the UCLA College and professional schools’ keynote speakers as well as their in-person and virtual celebrations is below. All in-person events require COVID protocols, such as masks and physical distancing.
Saturday, May 15
9 a.m. Ron Inge, chief dental officer at Delta Dental of Missouri, spoke at the graduation ceremony for the School of Dentistry. The in-person event took place at the Los Angeles Tennis Center. A virtual ceremony was held May 30.
Friday, May 21
3 p.m. Ted Lieu, the congressman for California’s 33rd district, which includes campus, spoke at the livestreamed virtual graduation ceremony for UCLA School of Law. An in-person celebration took place the following day at 10 a.m. in the Los Angeles Tennis Center.
Friday, June 4
3 p.m. Dr. David Carlisle, president and chief executive officer of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, will speak at this year’s virtual commencement for the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. An in-person Grad Gala was held on May 27 in Switzer Plaza..
Thursday, June 10
9 a.m. – 6 p.m. daily through Tuesday, June 15, students will arrive for their reserved time slots for a distanced processional graduation walk across Drake Stadium, with up to two guests. The Drake Stadium procession will be livestreamed.
1:30 p.m. M.B.A. students in the UCLA Anderson School of Management will have their names read as they cross a stage at the Los Angeles Tennis Center for an in-person celebration. Alignment Healthcare founder and CEO John Kao, who is also an alumnus, will be the speaker.
5 p.m. Susan Ettner, interim dean of UCLA’s Graduate Division, will speak at the virtual doctoral hooding celebration.
6 p.m. Graduates from the Luskin School of Public Affairs will have their names announced as they cross a stage at a recognition event at the Los Angeles Tennis Center, which will be livestreamed online and to on-campus guests. A virtual commencement takes place the following morning.
Friday, June 11
9 a.m. for graduate students and 2 p.m. for undergraduate students. Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, will speak at the virtual graduation for the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. An in-person stage-crossing event takes place the preceding day.
9 a.m. Graduates from the UCLA School of Nursing will attend an in-person celebration at the Los Angeles Tennis Center, where students will have their names announced as they cross a stage. A virtual commencement takes place the following day.
1:30 p.m. Nilo Cruz, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, will speak at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television’s in-person and livestreamed graduation ceremony at the Los Angeles Tennis Center.
2 p.m. Virtual ceremony for the Anderson School of Management’s doctoral graduates. Kao, the founder and CEO of Alignment Healthcare, will be the speaker.
3 p.m. Dr. Elaine Batchlor, chief executive officer of MLK Community Healthcare in South Los Angeles, will speak at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health’s virtual commencement ceremony.
4 p.m. Regina Carter, a Grammy-nominated violinist and MacArthur “genius grant” fellow, will speak at the livestreamed virtual graduation for the Herb Alpert School of Music.
4 p.m. Virtual ceremony for the Anderson School of Management’s Executive M.B.A. graduates. Kao will be the speaker.
6 p.m. In-person celebration for the Anderson School of Management’s Fully Employed M.B.A. program graduates, who will have their names read as they cross a stage at the Los Angeles Tennis Center. Kao will be the speaker.
Saturday, June 12
10 a.m. to noon. Graduates from the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering will arrive for their reserved time slots for a distanced processional graduation walk across Drake Stadium, with up to two guests. The procession will be livestreamed. A virtual commencement takes place the following day.
10 a.m. Linda Sarna, dean of the UCLA School of Nursing, will speak at the school’s virtual commencement. An in-person event is scheduled for the preceding day.
4 p.m. Christina Christie, Wasserman Dean of the UCLA School of Education and Information Studies, will speak at the school’s virtual graduation.
5 p.m. Fulton Leroy Washington a.k.a. Mr. Wash, a Los Angeles-based painter and social justice advocate, will speak at the livestreamed virtual graduation for the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture.
Sunday, June 13
12:30 p.m. Megan McArthur, a NASA astronaut, SpaceX Crew 2 pilot and UCLA aerospace engineering alumna, will speak from the International Space Station to the virtual graduation for the Samueli School of Engineering. An in-person event takes place the previous morning.