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COVID-19 Surge Force Shift to Virtual Commencement

In response to concerns about the spike of COVID-19 across NC and the U.S., in consultation with the Jackson County Department of Public Heath, WCU is canceling the commencement ceremonies scheduled for Dec. 10-13. Details are below.

2020 Commencement and Degree Conferral

In response to concerns about the surge of COVID-19 cases across North Carolina and the U.S. and in consultation with the Jackson County Department of Public Heath, Western Carolina University is canceling the modified in-person commencement ceremonies scheduled for Dec. 10-13 and shifting to a series of virtual ceremonies.

The rescheduled events will be livestreamed beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 12, with the announcement of the names of all members of the spring, summer and fall 2020 graduating classes.

The ceremonies will include remarks from Chancellor Kelli R. Brown, Provost Richard Starnes and deans of WCU’s academic colleges. Peter Hans, president of the University of North Carolina System; Bryant Kinney, chair of the WCU Board of Trustees; and Phil Byers, member of the UNC Board of Governors, will also deliver virtual greetings to the graduates.

The reconfigured online celebrations are designed to honor graduates who were scheduled to participate in May commencement events postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, students who completed degree requirements during this year’s summer sessions, and members of the fall 2020 graduating class who are currently completing degree requirements.

Each graduating student will receive a packet of commemorative commencement items via U.S. mail. Members of the fall 2020 graduating class also should expect to receive their diplomas through the mail. Graduates in the 2020 spring and summer classes should have already received their diplomas.

December 12 Ceremonies Schedule

Belcher College of Fine and Performing Arts - 9 a.m.

College of Business – 11 a.m.

College of Education and Allied Professions – 1 p.m.

College of Engineering and Technology – 3 p.m.

College of Health and Human Sciences – 5 p.m.

College of Arts and Sciences – 7 p.m.

The university is not planning to reschedule in-person commencement ceremonies for 2020 graduates. The university is exploring the possibility of special in-person alumni recognition opportunities for members of the 2020 graduating classes when conditions allow. More details will be announced at a later date.

Other information about WCU’s virtual commencement ceremony will be forthcoming. For additional questions, please contact

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, due to the change in commencement plans this Fall, the Bookstore will provide refunds for regalia that is new and in good condition. The Bookstore’s hours of operation can be found at Please contact the bookstore directly if you have any questions regarding your regalia or returns. The University Bookstore can be reached at

The graduation fee is an application fee. Students who do not walk are still required to pay the fee as it is not a ceremony specific fee. 

Western Carolina University, in accordance with North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper’s executive orders, planned to cap the meeting space at 100 persons per room for commencement activities at the Ramsey Regional Activity Center. We were able to utilize an occupancy limit of 100 persons per room because we planned for our meeting spaces to perform a primary function of the education mission.


Nearly 2,000 graduates plus their two guests planned to attend the in-person ceremonies. Upon consultation with the Jackson County Department of Public Health, the university concluded the risk remains too high to bring that number of people back to Cullowhee for any type of in-person events.


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