Let the Celebrations Begin! UArizona Kicks Off Graduation Series

graduate at arizona stadium

Chris Richards/University of Arizona

The University of Arizona's pair of graduation ceremonies on Tuesday evening were, in many ways, like the 156 Commencement ceremonies that preceded them in years past.

Graduates assembled on campus and heard words of inspiration from university leaders, college deans, outstanding students and others. They were then officially declared graduates of the University of Arizona.

But the two simultaneous events – one for the Honors College in Arizona Stadium and the other for the James E. Rogers in College of Law at the Cole and Jeannie Davis Sports Center – were different in one key way. The ceremonies marked the first in a series of 16 smaller, in-person celebrations that will be held over eight days on the UArizona main campus to recognize the class of 2021.

Designed with COVID-19 safety precautions in mind, the ceremonies have limited attendance, with students allowed just four ticketed guests. Masks are required, and physical distancing is in place. In addition, participating students are required to test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of an event, or they must upload proof of full vaccination to Campus Health's secure website.

University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins spoke at the College of Law ceremony.

"This past year I have been so impressed with our Wildcats," he told the approximately 140 law graduates in attendance.

"I have seen our students' compassion for helping one another, for serving the community, and doing everything they can to help all of us get through the pandemic," he added. "I have seen your innovative spirit, working side-by-side with our faculty experts to find solutions to the challenges brought on by COVID-19. And I have seen you achieve your personal and academic goals through one of the most difficult times in recent history."

At Arizona Stadium, more than 220 Honors College graduates sat in spaced-out seats before a stage at the football field's south end zone.

"By being here this evening, honors graduates are also genuinely living the values of this university," Liesl Folks, associate vice president of academic affairs and provost told the audience. "Through your research and exploration, you demonstrate an insatiable curiosity that's so important for the world's future. You have seen firsthand the problems that need to be solved, and you have the wherewithal, the intellect and the gifts needed to solve them."

Several award-winning students were recognized during the Honors College ceremony, including honors students Enrique Alan Olivares Pelayo – a graduate whose work as a writer and activist aims to reduce the size and scope of the criminal punishment system – and Nikita Ganesh, who graduated with degrees in psychological science and Chinese and is headed to law school at the University of Pennsylvania in the fall.

The College of Law ceremony closed with a video keynote by Deb Haaland, secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

"Today is a big step, but it's just the beginning," Haaland said. "Whether you've secured employment, are planning to pursue another degree or are waiting to find out your bar exam score before you market yourself, my hope is that you find your passion and pursue it so that we can build communities in a better country for our future generations."

The series of ceremonies will run through May 18, with morning ceremonies at the Cole and Jeannie Davis Sports Center and evening events at Arizona Stadium. A complete schedule can be found on the Commencement website.