Commencement./Courtesy of Emory Photo

On May 11, Emory will award a total of 5,024 academic degrees — including 76 joint degrees — to students in a virtual format, according to preliminary data from the University’s Office of the Registrar. The Wheel compiled a guide for students, family members and friends unsure of what a virtual 175th commencement ceremony will look like. 

The Class Day events, baccalaureate and the commencement ceremony will be pre-recorded and uploaded for public viewing on the University’s commencement website. Commencement keynote speaker Bryan Stevenson’s interactive address is the only University-wide commencement event to be aired live. 

In the University’s first interactive commencement address, Stevenson, who will speak from his home in Alabama, will answer selected questions from viewers through a chat feature on the website.  

Executive Director of Advancement Events and creator of the Commencement Task Force Michael Kloss compared the upcoming commencement activities to “TV show episodes that are pre-recorded that everyone gathers to watch.”

Kloss noted that the fear of technological glitches was too great to warrant live events. The task force, however, believed that Stevenson’s address was too purposeful to pre-record. 

“The intimacy and immediacy of hearing Bryan Stevenson talk directly to the graduating class we thought was really important, and we wanted to preserve that as a live experience,” Kloss stated.  

Below are details about Class Day and the official commencement ceremony. May 8 to 9 will feature individual school honors awards and ceremonies, including Oxford College graduation.

“Each school’s filter on our website will direct students to their individual school ceremonies,” Kloss said. “The chat feature will allow students to have watch parties.”

Class Day – May 7

Class Day is a student-organized ceremony that traditionally occurs on the Thursday before the commencement ceremony for baccalaureate degree candidates in the College of Arts and Sciences, Goizueta Business School, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing and the School of Medicine.

Class Day events will begin at 7 p.m. EDT with pre-recorded events spanning the Knights of Emory Spirit Awards, Boisfeuillet Jones Medals and the 100 Senior Honorary Recognition. 

This year’s Class Day keynote speaker, stand-up comedian and “The Daily Show” senior correspondent Ronny Chieng, will address students in a pre-recorded, online presentation. 

Following an approximately 20-minute speech, Chieng will answer a select few questions from the Class Day speaker selection committee. The pre-recorded Q&A session will be available for the community to view at 7:20 p.m. EDT. 

The address, which will occur over Zoom, will be available to any and all individuals who have the given password to attend. On May 5, the University emailed seniors with the password and allowed them to share it with family and friends. The reason for the password, according to Kloss, is contractual, as Chieng has produced content specifically for Emory students that is not meant to be publicly disseminated. 

May 11 – Commencement Ceremony 

All events on May 11, including University President Claire E. Sterk’s last address as president, will be pre-recorded, with the exception of Stevenson’s address. The events will be aired on the University’s commencement website at their scheduled times. 

Former Graduate Student Government Association President Cody Long (20L) and Samah Meghjee (18Ox, 20C) will be awarded the Marion Luther Brittain Award, which annually recognizes one undergraduate and one graduate student who have “performed the most significant, meritorious, and devoted service to Emory University.”

Two other faculty and staff awards, including the Thomas Jefferson Award and the Exemplary Teacher of the Year Award, will be granted to Laney Graduate School Dean Lisa Tedesco and Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies Deborah Lipstadt, respectively. 

This year’s class orator Adama Kamara (20C) will address students right before the official commencement ceremony. Kamara was selected from a pool of 18 other student applicants, according to Associate Dean of the Office for Undergraduate Education Jason Ciejka.

Kamara, an anthropology and international studies double major, will be the only student to speak at the ceremony. 

Kamara said she didn’t think she would be selected and noted that her speech, which she recorded in mid-April, was derived from a personal journal entry and focuses on embracing the inevitability of fear.

“I think my speech ended up being pretty relevant with everything going on in the world,” Kamara said. “Right now everyone’s afraid of the future. I think that’s part of the reason that I was selected — it was a relevant theme before and after the pandemic.”

Kamara was the editor-in-chief of Black Star* Magazine, Emory University’s first and only black student publication, and vice president of the Black Pre-Law Society. She will pursue a fellowship with Venture for America after graduation. 

A complete list of commencement scheduling can be found here

Correction (05/06/20 at 4:40 p.m.): A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Bryan Stevenson will deliver the commencement address from his home. In fact, he will deliver it from the Equal Justice Initiative headquarters.