UVU Commencement includes drive through and drive-in festivities 01

Kassidy Pettingill dances with her grandfather Merrill Wells as The National Parks perform during Utah Valley University’s 2020 drive-in commencement ceremony held on the university’s campus in Orem on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020. On Friday, UVU will once again do a drive-thru commencement to honor its largest graduating class ever. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

The largest university in the state of Utah also will be celebrating its largest graduating class in school history. Utah Valley University will hold its commencement ceremony on Friday, honoring 8,729 graduates that will be earning a total of 10,443 degrees and certificates.

For the second straight year, the ceremony will be held in a drive-thru and drive-in style.

“We are proud of our 2021 graduates and know that they will do great things for themselves and others,” said Dr. Astrid S. Tuminez, president of Utah Valley University, in a press release. “More than 80% of our alumni live and work in Utah after graduation, which helps fuel and sustain the state’s growing economy. Their skills and credentials, along with their ability to continue living UVU’s core values of exceptional care, exceptional accountability, and exceptional results will help them succeed in Utah and anywhere else they choose to go.”

The Class of 2021 also happens to be one of the most diverse in the school’s history: 18% are people of color, 35% are first-generation college graduates and 45% are age 25 or older.

Along with the ceremony, the university will award honorary degrees to former Governor Gary Herbert and Melisa Nellesen. The commencement keynote speaker will be Dr. Wendy Watson Nelson and she also will be receiving an honorary degree.

According to reports, Nelson, the wife of President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, being the keynote speaker has sparked some concern from students in the LGBTQ+ community.

Convocations for the Class of 2021 will begin on Friday afternoon, with start times depending on the number of graduates in each school. Graduates will each have their name called while walking the green carpet to receive their diploma.

“The entire campus has unitedly pulled together again this year to celebrate the Class of 2021 in a historic and unique setting while we are adhering to safety guidelines and precautions to protect the campus community with COVID-19,” said Stephen Whyte, UVU associate vice president of university relations. “The commencement committee, which has representation from each department and school, has tirelessly worked through thousands of details to be able to honor and celebrate our students. It’s inspiring to see so many talented people creatively working together to provide a commencement celebration to honor UVU’s outstanding graduates.”

He added that one of UVU’s core focuses is on helping students succeed, and the graduating class’ input and suggestions also will help to make the ceremony a success. Students showed that they wanted to have an in-person celebration, according to Whyte, and he said many are thankful that the school is celebrating as a whole.

This excitement was shown through the number of students who registered for commencement, a number that Whyte said doubled from 2020.

The ceremony will have pre-show entertainment provided by various student groups, helping to showcase those students, which will be followed by the celebration.

“This year we’re doing an online grad party pack for all of the students that they can download, bring and use,” Whyte said. “We’re also doing a series of touching graduate thank you videos. Videos that graduates have made are so touching. We’re very excited to not only welcome the graduates but all of their guests as well tomorrow night.”

Whyte said that he and the university are so proud of the 2021 graduates for showing dedication, grit, determination and for the things the students have done during their time on campus.

He continued, saying that the graduates will do great things in the future.

The pre-show student entertainment will start at 7:30 p.m., while the commencement ceremony will start at 8:15.