May 7, 2021

Dear Graduates and Members of Our Campus Community,

Of all the rites of passage you have reached in your lives, perhaps few are as significant as your Commencement — the culmination of years of hard work, dedication, and commitment to your academic pursuits. 

On April 23, 2021, we wrote to share with you our Commencement plans, including the announcement that Oprah Winfrey will be the keynote graduation speaker for our special live-streamed online Commencement ceremony on Saturday, June 12, 2021.

We have heard from so many of you about how important it is for you to share the joy and excitement of this important milestone with your family and friends. So, we are pleased to announce that, after consultation with our campus medical experts, our Deans, and our local public health officials, we are inviting our graduates to each bring up to two guests to accompany them for our Grad Walk during the week of June 7, 2021. Although we wish more guests could be allowed, we will not be able to accommodate additional guests and hope that others will be able to share in this moment virtually via our live-stream.

Each graduate’s two guests will be able to watch in-person while their student takes part in the graduation processional that includes having their name announced as they cross a stage, and their photograph taken against a backdrop of the campus lagoon. Just as guests are not allowed on the stage at our traditional Commencement ceremonies, likewise, guests will not be allowed to join their graduate on the stage during the Grad Walk. Information on how to reserve your Grad Walk time and details about safety protocols are available on our Commencement website. The deadline to register has been extended to midnight on Tuesday, May 11, 2021.

We also welcome members of our Class of 2020 who are participating in Grad Walk to invite up to two guests so that they, too, can share the joy of an in-person graduation experience, which, regretfully, they missed last year due to the pandemic.

I would like to thank our campus medical experts and Santa Barbara County Public Health for providing us with the following guidelines for our Grad Walk participants:

• All graduates and guests are strongly encouraged to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19. If graduates and guests visiting from out of state are vaccinated, they do not need to be tested for COVID-19 or quarantine. Otherwise, any visitor from outside California should follow California Public Health guidelines.

• In keeping with State and local public health guidelines and University policy aimed at minimizing the risk of COVID-19 transmission, all graduates and guests are required to wear face coverings while on campus, regardless of vaccination status. During the Grad Walk processional, graduates may remove their masks briefly for official photographs. 

• Graduates and their guests will need to maintain a physical distance of at least 6 feet from people outside their households. To help maintain physical distancing, they must use the designated entrance and separate exit routes. 

• Graduates with fewer than two guests cannot transfer their guest invitation(s) to accommodate graduates who wish to have more than two guests.

• To help minimize risks and reduce crowding and traffic congestion, we ask that only graduates with appointments and their two guests come to the Grad Walk, at their appointed time. Guests will need to enter and stay with their graduates throughout the processional.

• We will continue to monitor the prevalence of COVID-19 cases on campus, in Isla Vista, and throughout Santa Barbara County, and may need to limit the Grad Walk to just graduates if circumstances warrant.

More detailed information will be shared in the coming weeks and posted to our Commencement website.

I would like to say a special “thank you” in advance to our dedicated campus staff who are making it possible for us to hold our in-person, on-campus Grad Walk.

Though we are unable to host our traditional commencement ceremonies, we are delighted to hold this year-end celebration to honor our graduates and those who have supported you and shared this journey with you. We know how meaningful it is for your loved ones, and all of us, to share the joy of this momentous occasion with you.


Henry T. Yang