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May 2021 Commencement

VCU’s College of Humanities and Sciences will hold three in-person graduation ceremonies on Saturday, May 15 at Cary Street Field. These ceremonies will be held outdoors, rain or shine, and are only for our graduates. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we cannot allow guests at the ceremony. However, we will be live streaming the ceremony (above), and family and friends can watch the ceremony through their online devices.

Students (undergraduate, graduate and professional students) should attend the ceremony of their primary major/unit. The schedule of the ceremonies is as follows:

12:00 p.m.: Biology; Chemistry; Economics; Forensic Science; Mathematics and Applied Mathematics; Military Science and Leadership; Physics; Statistical Sciences and Operations Research; Interdisciplinary Science

3:00 p.m.: Psychology; Kinesiology and Health Sciences

6:00 p.m.: African American Studies; English; Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies; History; Liberal Studies for Early and Elementary Education; Media, Art and Text (MATX); Philosophy; Political Science; Robertson School; Sociology; World Studies

We anticipate that each ceremony will last two hours. All students will need to RSVP for graduation. We urge all to read through the sections below. If you have any questions not answered below, please contact

Please arrive at Cary Street Field at least 30 minutes before the ceremony begins. The entrance is located on 1106 West Cary Street. When you arrive, you will need to show your Entry Pass to get onto the field. You will also need to wear a mask. We will check your name against our RSVP list.

You are not allowed to bring food or drink. Water bottles will be provided for you on the field.

Each graduate may receive two printed copies of the official VCU commencement program. The spring commencement program will include the names of students with an active May graduation application at the time of printing. (This document will not include “walkers.”) Due to time constraints, this program will be based on information available at the time of printing and before the final list of degree candidates and Latin honor designations is completed.

Request two programs


Our goal is to hold a safe in-person graduation ceremony. In order to do so, these are the following guidelines we are following:

  • Everyone will need to show an Entry Pass to enter the field.
  • Everyone will need to wear a mask the entire time.
  • Chairs will be placed six feet apart on the field and will be sanitized between ceremonies.
  • There will be no congregating of students. Students will enter the field and quickly find their seats.
  • For the reading of names, students will not walk across the stage. Instead the student’s name will be called and the student will stand at their seat.
  • There will be PPE stations set up around the field.
  • No food or drink may be brought onto the field. Water bottles will be provided for students.

The official conferral date for May 2021 degrees is May 22, 2021. Degrees will post to your record on Tuesday, June 1, 2021. Degrees will not appear on your academic transcript until this date. Degrees will only show for those students who have satisfied all degree requirements and receive final approval. Check your academic transcript via eServices to ensure your degree has been posted before requesting official transcripts.

Diplomas will be mailed beginning June 28, 2021, to the address provided during graduation checkout. To receive your diploma, you must meet all financial obligations to the university. Diplomas will not be released for those students who have not met their financial obligations. Please contact the Office of Records and Registration at (804) 827-1673 or once those obligations have been met.

We will not be taking graduate portraits at the CHS graduation ceremony.

Instead, VCU will host graduate portrait sessions at the Stuart C. Siegel Center on Tuesday, May 11 from 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. and on Wednesday, May 12 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. for May 2021 graduates. Graduates must sign up for a reserved time slot and will be sent additional instructions for arrival and social distancing protocols. Professional graduate photos will be taken by GradImages and graduates will be able to take portraits as well as pose on the commencement stage, during their registered time period.

You may sign up for your graduate portrait on the GradImages website.

Guests are NOT allowed.

They may view the ceremony through the live stream. (Sidewalks around the field will also be closed to prevent guests from congregating outside the field.)

We will live stream the ceremony for family and friends on this page (see top of page).

All students must RSVP for the in-person ceremony by Saturday, May 1, 2021. If you do not RSVP, you will not be allowed to attend. On your RSVP, you can also indicate if you need handicap accessible parking.

All attendees should park at the Main Street Deck, located at 801 W Main St. Parking will be free.

If you need handicap parking, please indicate that on the RSVP form. We will work with you to provide accessible parking close to the field.

When we read names, we will have graduates stand at their seats. Due to COVID restrictions, we cannot have students walk across the stage. We will call names of all students who RSVP, regardless of whether they attend or not.

Regalia will be available for purchase at the Barnes & Noble @ VCU on the Monroe Park and MCV campuses. If you are unable to visit the book­store, please order your regalia online at beginning April 3. Shipping charges will apply to all internet orders.

Cords and stoles are available for purchase at the Barnes & Noble @ VCU locations or online at

Regalia Assistance

A fund has been established to provide relief for those who need financial assistance in purchasing regalia. This fund is administered by the Division of Student Affairs. Students may access the application for regalia assistance at the VCU Division of Student Affairs financial support page.


Undergraduate, graduate and professional students who will graduate in May 2021 may apply for assistance. Funds are limited and will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Assistance will be for one set of regalia (cap, gown and hood).

Applying for Assistance

Students must complete the application form and are required to write a 12-point font, double-spaced essay of no more than two pages, reflecting on their experiences as a VCU student and the significance of graduation for the student, their friends and their family, as well as indicating their financial need for regalia assistance.

Administration of the Award

Financial need will be considered as part of the process. Students will retrieve their regalia from Barnes & Noble @ VCU on either campus per the timeline below. Note: Reimbursement will not be made to students who have previously purchased regalia; assistance is not applicable for online purchases.


Applications will be accepted through Friday, April 16. Funds are limited and will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis until funds run out.

Denise Walters

Speaker for the 12:00 p.m. ceremony

denise walters

Denise Walters is a strategy and operations leader for the Analytical, Microbiology, Product Chemistry, and Stability Team at Glaxo Smith Klein Consumer Healthcare in Richmond, VA. She has 30 years of experience in pharmaceutical development, impacting products ranging from cosmetics, dietary supplements and analgesics to prescription medications. Through her career at GSK, Pfizer, Wyeth, Battelle, Whitby and A.H. Robins, she has contributed to both basic research and commercialization of numerous pharmaceutical products through pharmacokinetic modeling, organic synthesis, analytical method development and analyses, and product manufacturing. She has been a manager in analytical sciences for seven years.

Walters has published in the fields of pharmacokinetics and bioanalysis, and is a co-author on three patents related to dietary supplement formulations. Walters is also active in the broader scientific community. She has provided subject matter expert advice internally and externally to support sound, scientifically-based policies and test methods. Walters received both her B.S. in chemistry and Ph.D. in pharmacy from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Walters serves as vice chair of the Science Museum of Virginia Board of Trustees. She is also chair of the Virginia Section of the American Chemical Society (ACS), where she has demonstrated her aptitude for leadership and drive for diversity by spearheading the Virginia ACS initiative to develop their strategic plan, and by revitalizing their Minority Affairs Committee.

Anh (“Bao”) Nguyen Zarndt

Speaker for the 3:00 p.m. ceremony

anh bao zarndt

Anh (“Bao”) Nguyen Zarndt (pronouns: she, her) is a lead science policy analyst at the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products (CTP). Nguyen Zarndt works on tobacco regulatory policies to improve public health using evidence-based strategies. Advocacy for health equity and social justice has been the cornerstone of her career. She currently leads health equity initiatives, ensuring that tobacco regulatory policies and regulations are meaningful for underserved and vulnerable populations. She has developed and refined measures to assess health disparities in systems for population-based surveillance and research tracking at the FDA, and she spearheads efforts to focus research prioritization on groups that have historically experienced tobacco-related health disparities.

Nguyen Zarndt’s research has focused on the social determinants of health, cultural barriers to health services, and immigrant and minority health behaviors. She has partnered with Richmond local faith-based communities to increase cancer awareness and knowledge and to promote healthy behaviors among Vietnamese American populations. At VCU’s Center for Cultural Experiences in Prevention (CCEP), Nguyen Zarndt worked with local African American communities in targeted HIV, substance use and tobacco use interventions.

Nguyen Zarndt graduated from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (B.S.), the University of Richmond (M.A.), Virginia Commonwealth University (Ph.D.) and Harvard School of Public Health (M.P.H.). She and her husband, Tyler, have two children.

Jesse Vaughan

Speaker for the 6:00 p.m. ceremony

jesse vaughan holding a camera

Jesse Vaughan directed two feature films: “Juwanna Mann” for Warner Bros. and the independent film, “The Last Punch.”

Starting his career as a director for WTVR-TV6 in Richmond, Virginia, Vaughan directed weekend news while he was a VCU mass communication student at the ripe age of 19. NBC Networks William Hamby took notice of Vaughan’s precocious accomplishments offering him a job at age 22.

While at NBC, Vaughan directed “The Jesse Jackson Show” for Quincy Jones Entertainment and “America’s Black Forum” with Julian Bond. In addition to his work as an associate director on shows such as “Meet The Press,” President Reagan’s Inauguration, Reagan’s State of The Union Addresses and major White House press conferences, Vaughan also worked on “NBC Nightly News”, “The Today Show,” “The Charlie Rose Show” and “The McLaughlin Group.” Vaughan also directed WRC-TV News Center 4’s 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. news.

Vaughan followed his 10-year-career at NBC with a season five stint, directing the sketch comedy series “In Living Color,” starring Jim Carey, Jamie Fox and David Alan Grier. Vaughan then moved on to directing numerous music documentaries for MTV Networks, including music specials on Rod Stewart, Stevie Wonder, Paula Abdul, Melissa Etheridge and Steve Winwood. Vaughan also has directed music videos featuring Justin Timberlake, Eric Benet and Missy Elliot.

Vaughan won two national Emmy awards for his work on the “NBC Sports Barcelona Olympics” and “The World Track and Field Games” in Tokyo where the talent pool included Elton John, Tina Turner, Will Smith, Rod Stewart, En Vogue and many more.

Nominated for 49 Emmy awards during his career, Vaughan has won 34. He currently works as the chief marketing and communications officer for the Richard Bland College of William & Mary.

CHS departments and schools will also have virtual graduation content available on their websites, including videos, award information and graduate names.

VCU will host a university-wide virtual commencement this spring. The celebration will begin at 9:00 a.m. and include a Zoom pre-party for students, video clips and photos from graduates to commemorate their accomplishments while at VCU as well as traditional ceremony elements to celebrate the occasion of their graduation, including speeches and music.

Celebration Boxes

Each graduate may receive a special Commencement celebration box. To receive your box, please complete the celebration box form by Wednesday, April 14, 2021. The Commencement celebration box will feature a few items that celebrate the Class of 2021.

Graduate Photo Submissions

This year we have a unique opportunity for you to share your graduation photos with us, so that we can display them for your family and friends during our virtual celebrations. Please submit your grad photos via the photo upload form to be included in the celebration by May 7.

Family and Friends Video Submission

We are excited to collect video shoutouts from family and friends of the VCU Class of 2021. We invite your family and friends to upload 10-12 second video clips using the video upload form. Please follow all form instructions to ensure the most high-quality video submission possible. Videos must be submitted by April 23.

Find out more from VCU's virtual commencement page.