UNC plans an in-person graduation with a virtual Dr. Fauci as commencement speaker

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Kate Murphy
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UNC-Chapel Hill seniors can attend an in-person graduation ceremony at Kenan Stadium this spring, giving them a chance to take part in one Carolina tradition during the coronavirus pandemic.

“After enduring so much to get to their big day, the class of 2021 will enjoy at least one more day of the Carolina experience they love so much,” UNC-CH Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said in an announcement Thursday.

Graduates can invite two guests and will hear a virtual commencement address by two of the nation’s top COVID-19 researchers — Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett.

Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH and has been leading the country’s COVID-19 response as the chief medical advisor to the president.

Corbett, a Carolina alumna, is the scientific lead on the Vaccine Research Center’s coronavirus team at the U.S. National Institutes of Health and has been key to the development of the Moderna vaccine. She was recently honored by Time magazine as an emerging leader and her hometown of Hillsborough named a day after Corbett.

UNC will host multiple in-person, ticketed ceremonies on May 14, 15 and 16, depending on students’ school or department in the College of Arts & Sciences. Students and families can also watch live-streams of the ceremonies virtually.

At the in-person events, there will be a combination of live and pre-recorded content. Graduates will not walk in the traditional processional due to COVID-19 restrictions. All attendees must follow UNC’s community standards, including wearing a mask and social distancing.

Students set to graduate this spring must register for graduation by March 18. UNC will set the dates and times for the individual ceremonies once there’s a head count of in-person attendees.

UNC is planning for these events based on current public health guidance and if local or state ordinances change, the university will modify its plans accordingly. Any updates will be announced by April 16.

“Although this will not be a traditional ceremony,” Guskiewicz said, “it is our best opportunity to safely come together to celebrate a significant milestone in our students’ lives.”

Duke University is also hosting an outdoor, in-person graduation ceremony, but only students can attend.

N.C. State graduation is typically held at PNC Arena and is currently scheduled for May 15, but the university has not announced plans.