young V C U student standing in cap and gown outside the university library
More than 2,200 students graduated from VCU this semester. (Garnette Ransone Photography)

VCU honors newest graduates at virtual commencement ceremony

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Virginia Commonwealth University celebrated its newest graduates Saturday with a virtual commencement ceremony that provided a safe, festive way to honor their achievements with family, friends and the larger university community.

During the ceremony, VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., praised the graduates for their resilience in the face of a unique battery of challenges.

“I am so proud of your hard work during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Rao said. “You make me so proud. Lives are being saved because of your volunteer work with local and state agencies, tracing disease transmission. You’ve also exhibited great care for your fellow Rams, your loved ones and people in our community, and you’ve done this through personal preventative measures. You’ve made VCU a story of tremendous success through this pandemic, and it’s nothing short of profound.”

The virtual program included video clips and photos from graduates to commemorate their accomplishments while at VCU as well as traditional ceremony elements to celebrate their graduation. The event was held virtually rather than in person in accordance with university, state and federal guidelines on large gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic. All 2020 graduates originally invited to participate in a May or December in-person ceremony will be invited to participate in person at a future university commencement event.

VCU Fall 2020 Commencement

Solomon Workneh, who received his bachelor’s degree in information systems from the School of Business, served as the Class of 2020 student speaker. Workneh told his fellow graduates that he had learned in his studies that “creativity is always a competitive advantage.” In the face of challenges raised by the pandemic, he said, “let’s remember to adapt.”

“Like businesses, we will have to creatively adapt moving forward in our lives and careers,” Workneh said. “This will mean we will have to adapt to things that are new to us like online interviews. Or maybe even creating a new way to market your skills. But with our experience at VCU, I believe it will help us maneuver better during this time.”

The ceremony will be available for viewing on VCU’s YouTube channel. The university community also is celebrating together on social media using #VCU2020.

As part of the ceremony, VCU presented School of Medicine professors Kenneth S. Kendler, M.D., and Steven Woolf, M.D., with the Presidential Medallion, which was established in 1984 to honor outstanding contributions by members of the university community. Kendler is director of the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics at VCU, and Woolf is director emeritus of VCU’s Center on Society and Health.

VCU has confirmed more than 2,200 graduates for August and December this year with approximately 500 more expected to be approved.