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Class of 2020 Commencement Updates

Message from Dean Feltner

July 29, 2020

You have remained in the forefront of our minds and in our prayers throughout the summer as we continue to make plans for both the resumption of the 2020–2021 academic year and your commencement ceremony. As you are likely aware, the COVID-19 situation continues to limit a wide range of activities in Southern California. Presently, the State of California and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (L.A. County Public Health) preclude all gatherings with very limited exceptions. In the fall, I have been informed that Pepperdine will be limited to gatherings for instructional purposes only and to less than 50 people indoors or 100 outdoors. This limitation has hampered our ability to plan for your commencement ceremony and it will likely limit our actions throughout the fall semester.

I greatly appreciate your participation in the Class of 2020 commencement survey conducted by the Seaver College Dean's Office. The results of the survey (below) and the participation by many in focus groups has been helpful and informed our thinking regarding your commencement ceremony. Based on the survey results and Pepperdine's current plans for the spring semester, we are planning to hold the Class of 2020 commencement ceremony in May 2021 in Alumni Park on the Malibu campus. We are presently working to determine the specific date and time for the ceremony, and we will share those details as soon as possible.

Our ability to hold a traditional commencement with 800 graduates and 8,500 attendees is dependent on approval from L.A. County Public Health and likely on the identification of a treatment and/or vaccine for COVID-19. We will provide updates should conditions or regulatory guidance change. You may always access the most current information regarding the Class of 2020 on the Graduation Information website.

You should soon be in receipt of your Seaver College diploma. Printing of the diploma takes approximately 90 days after the posting of your degree. Diplomas should arrive at the address of your permanent residence in late July or early August.

I appreciate your patience and understanding as we all await news regarding COVID-19. Our promise to you on May 2 was solemn, and it is one we will honor. You deserve a commencement ceremony in Alumni Park, and we continue to do everything possible to provide it to you. I look forward to seeing you back on campus and to providing you with the recognition and celebration you richly deserve.

Class of 2020 Commencement Survey Results

We are appreciative to the 569 members of the Class of 2020 who completed the commencement survey. The results follow:

All things considered, my preferred commencement option is:
Virtual 4%
Other* 9%
May 2021 70%
December 2020 (indoors) 15%
Mid-semester 2021 2%
*Most people who wrote in an option suggested August 2020 or December 2020 outdoors.
An in-person commencement
Important or Very Important 91%
A commencement on Alumni Park
Important or Very Important 82%
Prefer May commencement over virtual or December (indoors)
Agree or Strongly Agree 81%
Likely to attend a May commencement
Agree or Strongly Agree 86%
A commencement on the same day as 2021 commencement makes sense
Agree or Strongly Agree 33%
A commencement on the same weekend as 2021 commencement makes sense
Agree or Strongly Agree 74%

As you can see, the Class of 2020 strongly prefers an in-person ceremony on Alumni Park in May 2021. The survey results confirmed what we learned in focus groups conducted in May 2020. Below are a sampling of your comments regarding an in-person graduation on Alumni Park:

  • Please give us a real graduation ceremony!!
  • One of the things I most looked forward to when coming to Pepperdine was the extraordinary commencement ceremonies that took place on Alumni Park, surrounded by peers and our families. I believe this event in Alumni Park, especially, is a crucial aspect of what it means to be a Pepperdine Wave, and it is a moment I think we all look forward to where our hard work has finally paid off.
  • I just wanted to further stress that I find the Alumni Park commencement to be an integral part of the Pepperdine experience.
  • I feel as though I have graduated and do not care for a commencement ceremony unless it is in person and on Alumni Park as that is a unique experience for every Pepperdine graduate that I would still love to go through.
  • Please have our 2020 commencement summer of 2021 on Alumni Park.

A few common questions arose from individuals who completed the survey, so we're sharing our answers here:

  Why Was a Virtual Ceremony On the Survey?

Some alumni expressed concern that because a virtual ceremony was listed as an option that Pepperdine was not planning to honor its promise of an in-person ceremony. Please don't worry! An in-person ceremony on Alumni Park remains our commitment to you. However, we needed to determine if your desire for an in-person ceremony had changed.

  Why Was a Commencement in August 2020 Not On the Survey?

A good number of you wondered why August 2020 isn't an option. "The Class of 2020 should graduate in 2020. If you can bring people back for school you can bring people back for a ceremony." It's a good question, and the answer is straightforward. Large gatherings have not been allowed in L.A. County through the summer, and, based on public health data locally, we don't expect that to change. We simply do not have the regulatory approval to bring thousands of people together on the Malibu campus in August 2020.

  Why Can't We Have a December 2020 Ceremony on Alumni Park?

Some alumni wondered why an outdoor ceremony in December isn't an option. "Change the indoor options to outdoors. Only allowing us one option of outdoors and having it in 2021 is cruel." We realize it's disappointing not to have an outdoor option in December. We thought carefully about this, and even though we are in Malibu, the weather in December through February is not predictable enough to be confident that we can have the ceremony outside. There is the possibility not only of rain but also wind or cold temperatures. What if alumni and their families made the effort to come to Malibu for the ceremony—some from far away—only to have the weather force a shift at the last minute to Firestone Fieldhouse? We fear that this could be an even bigger disappointment, especially because the number of guests would need to be limited. Additionally, given the recent rise in COVID-19 cases, we're not confident that large gatherings will be possible this calendar year.


The class also shared helpful ideas about all things related to commencement, which we are taking seriously as we make plans. Pepperdine students are the best, and we greatly value your input! We continue to wish you success as you pursue your post-graduate plans and we look forward to learning more of your experiences when we are together. Until then, I wish you the very best.

Michael Feltner
Dean of Seaver College