Virtual Success: 9,100 Viewers Watch Spring 2020 Commencement

May 18, 2020

When Assistant Director of University Events Kelly Mason began planning CU Denver’s first-ever virtual commencement ceremony, she hoped for 800 graduates to participate. That’s about half the number the university typically sees at the in-person ceremony, which was cancelled this spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In just eight weeks, she nearly hit her goal—733 graduates submitted photos and words of inspiration for the virtual milestone, and roughly 9,100 viewers watched the ceremony on Facebook.

“Our virtual celebration does not replace an in-person commencement, but it does provide us an opportunity to reimagine how we celebrate our graduates until we can gather again in person,” Mason said. “I am excited that so many of our graduates registered to take part in CU Denver’s first-ever virtual commencement celebration, and I look forward how we can use this as an opportunity to make improvements to future ceremonies.”

The reimagined ceremony was one to remember, with heartfelt, personalized videos from leadership and faculty, new scripts, digital programming, shipped regalia, special social media filters, and much more.


By the Numbers

733 graduates submitted photos and expressions of gratitude.

245 graduates requested regalia be shipped to them so they can take photos with their loved ones.

 476 graduates requested a diploma cover and copies of the printed program be mailed to them. 

370 graduates have indicated their interest in returning for a Dec. 11 ceremony, scheduled to be held at the Convention Center.

109 virtual participants requested regalia be shipped to them.

154 virtual participants also indicated they would also like to attend the December ceremony.

91 online students graduated this semester, and 41 of them participated in the virtual ceremony, which is a first for this group of students, as well!

775 graduates requested alumni shirts. (The option is open through May 25.)

More than 2,000 students total graduated this spring.

133 of the graduates are veterans.

134 of the graduates are from the International College Beijing, a 25-year old academic partnership with China Agricultural University


About the Ceremony

The May 16 virtual commencement kicked off at 9 a.m. with virtual celebration links for each school and college, which included sincere messages of encouragement from deans and department chairs, all filmed remotely. The links will remain active for the rest of the year.

The main ceremony opened with remarks by Chancellor Dorothy Horrell, followed by a message from CU President Mark Kennedy. Three regents who will be retiring this year—John Carson, Irene Griego, and Linda Shoemaker—read the Norlin Charge, a long-standing tradition at the CU System.

“This spring, we have more than 2,000 graduating students. They come from many states across the U.S., as well as 15 countries around the world,” Horrell said at her final commencement ceremony. She will be retiring at the end of June. “We believe the rich multicultural experience that is a defining aspect of a CU Denver education prepares our students to succeed in an increasingly global environment.”

At 10 a.m., the Student Government Association hosted a live watch party on CU Denver’s Facebook and YouTube channels. The creative addition allowed for viewers to watch the event in real time with their peers. Three thousand viewers watched the live event, and that number quickly grew to 4,000 an hour later and 8,600 by Monday morning.

Members of the Student Government Association host a Facebook Live watch party for the virtual ceremony.

Recognizing Our Graduates

To honor the class of 2020, graduates’ names and degrees are listed in a slideshow at the bottom of each school’s and college’s commencement webpage. Graduates who opted to participate in the ceremony also have portraits and expressions of gratitude on their slides.


Celebrating Our Grads on Social Media

CU Denver celebrated the class of 2020 on social media in various ways, from uplifting videos to albums of graduates’ portrait photos. To kick off commencement day, Milo was caught (social distance) celebrating around his stomping grounds—CU Denver’s downtown campus and Speer Boulevard.

CU Denver’s Facebook page has a special album dedicated to spring 2020 graduates. Check to see if you or a loved one’s photo made it!

CU Denver’s Instagram has posts of standout graduates’ one-of-a-kind stories. Follow the account to learn more.

2020 graduate Katie Ramsay

Congratulations, class of 2020. You did it!