UW-Milwaukee is hosting an in-person event for students who graduated virtually during the pandemic

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is trying to reach out to students who have been unable to attend in-person graduation ceremonies for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At a recognition event in April, these alumni will have the chance to walk across the stage.

In-person graduation ceremonies at UW-Milwaukee were canceled in 2020 and last spring, leaving thousands of students without a chance to receive their degrees at the campus Panther Arena in front of family and friends. The pandemic has forced Wisconsin colleges to do the same.

Virtual ceremonies were held instead, giving graduates a chance to celebrate at home, said Kelly Haag, vice chancellor for student affairs.

“But it’s really not the same as going through that stage and celebrating with friends and family,” Haag said. “So it’s really important that we try to give them that opportunity.”

UW-Milwaukee is working on a “Special Recognition Ceremony” to be held on Sunday, April 10, providing a chance for graduates of the past two years to experience all the pomp and circumstance they missed.

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Finding and connecting with these former students can be difficult, however. After graduation, college email accounts disappear. Haag said they search databases and registration apps for alternative contact information. UW-Milwaukee is also reaching out via social media posts.

“We use every method available to us,” Haag said. “So the most recent email addresses that our students have provided us with is definitely a mechanism.”

The event will feature many of the trappings of typical graduation ceremonies, such as the reading of their names as they walk across the stage. The traditional cap and robes are optional, with the university suggesting that these previous insignia wear all black or the campus’ signature gold and black colors.

Students graduating in Spring 2020, Fall 2020, or Spring 2021 are asked to register by Sunday, March 20.

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