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  • Commencement 2021

    Russell Sage College committed to a student-centered community celebration to honor our graduates in a new and innovative way this year. In place of holding a larger commencement ceremony on May 15, Russell Sage hosted multiple small on-campus gatherings.  This enhanced safety and complied with state requirements.  Recently released guidance from New York State allowed us to permit each graduate to bring up to two guests. 

    This year is like no other, and these ceremonies reflected the changing conditions we have faced.  While they were different than our usual large gathering, we honored the wishes of our graduates to be able to walk across the stage in the presence of their classmates and closest family and friends. 

    Click on the links below to see the recent email messages that have been sent to graduates regarding our 2021 commencement plans.

    The Student Life Office will communicate regularly with graduates and graduating students via email throughout the spring semester with more specific details; however, you can find answers to frequently asked questions below.

    I was at one of the graduation ceremonies, will I be able to purchase the professional photos that were taken?

    Yes. All graduates who participated in the graduation ceremonies this year will receive an email from the Student Life Office in the week or two following graduation with a link to Genesee Photo’s website where you will be able to access and purchase your photos, if you choose.

    How can my family and friends access the recording of my graduation ceremony?

    The College has set up a YouTube Channel where loved ones can view a recording of each of the seven ceremonies. Go to: http://bit.ly/RussellSageCollegeCelebrations or click on the button below to access the channel.

    When and where will the small graduation celebrations be held?

    We will celebrate our 2020 and 2021 graduates outdoors in the Campus Quad on Russell Sage College’s Albany campus in gatherings of up to 60 students with up to 2 guests each.  These events will be held as one-hour ceremonies on Tuesday, May 11 at 9:00AM, 11:30AM, 2:00PM, and 4:30PM and Wednesday, May 12 at 11:30AM, 2:00PM, and 4:30PM. 

    How will I know which ceremony to attend? 

    All graduates received an updated email invitation on April 16 with a link to a reservation request form, which allowed them to choose the ceremony they wish to attend. We no longer celebrating in groups by academic program. If you have travel considerations or wish to attend a ceremony with your classmates, you can plan accordingly.  

    Each ceremony can accommodate up to 60 graduates and their 2 guests. Once a ceremony has 60 students signed up, it will close.  This may result in you having to choose another scheduled ceremony that still has capacity. Graduates will receive an email within one business day after submitting the online request to reserve a seat at one of the ceremonies either confirming your reservation or asking you to select a different ceremony, if the capacity limit was exceeded.

    If you do not receive your email invitation by April 17, please contact [email protected].

    Who will be eligible to attend these on-campus celebrations? 

    Any graduate or graduating student eligible to attend the May 2020 and May 2021 Commencement ceremonies will be invited to attend.  This includes August 2019, December 2019, May 2020, August 2020, December 2020, and May 2021 graduates, along with registrar-approved “walkers” who would have been eligible to participate in May 2021 commencement as an August or December 2021 graduate. In addition, each graduate may be accompanied by up to two guests. (See further information below about the guest policy.) All graduates must RSVP by April 21 and submit all requested contact information for themselves and their guests by April 22 (a link to do so will be provided by email once the ceremony reservation is confirmed).

    Will guests be able to attend the on-campus ceremonies for graduates?

    Yes! With the updated guidance from New York State, graduates will now be allowed to bring up to 2 guests to the ceremony. You must pre-register your guests and provide their contact information by April 22 (a link will be emailed to graduates to do so). All attendees must complete the on-site symptom checker and guest check-in before entering the ceremony.

    Our goal is to keep each event under 200 attendees.  Events of under 200 people do not have any requirements for attendees to present evidence of a negative COVID test or vaccination.  These events will be live-streamed and recorded so loved ones who are not able to attend in person can view the ceremonies. More details will be provided about this as we approach the events.

    What do I need to do in order to attend a graduation ceremony? 

    Upon receipt of your graduation invitation on April 16, which was sent to the email address(es) you provided on your graduation application, students were required to RSVP online by April 21 requesting a reservation for your preferred ceremony and the number of guests you anticipate will accompany you. Your reservation request should not be considered final until you receive a confirmation email from the Student Life office securing your reservation.

    Once your seat(s) for your desired graduation ceremony have been secured, you will be emailed a link to a form where you will be asked to enter contact information for you and your guests for contact tracing purposes. This information must be submitted online by April 22 or you will lose your reservation.

    As we approach the date of your ceremony, you will be provided more detailed information, including your assigned seat information and instructions for how to check in on the day of your ceremony. In addition, all attendees will need to check in prior to the start for the ceremony and pass on-site COVID screening questions.

    For the safety of our community, no one will be permitted to participate without full compliance with the above requirements.

    I already RSVP’d to the ceremony I was originally invited to, do I need to RSVP again?

    Yes.  Since we have changed our plans, including the structure of our ceremonies and the times for some of them, and the fact that we are now allowing guests, all students who plan to attend a graduation ceremony will need to RSVP after receiving the updated email invitation on April 16. All prior RSVPs have been deleted. We will assume that anyone who does not submit an online reservation request for one of the new outdoor ceremonies by April 21 does not plan to participate.

    Will the college adjust plans for the outdoor ceremonies depending on the weather?

    These events will be held outdoors regardless of the weather conditions on the day of the ceremony. The weather in Albany in mid-May is highly variable. Graduates and their guests should be prepared for a variety of weather conditions. There will not be a covered seating area in case of inclement weather. Please watch the forecast leading up to the ceremony and plan accordingly. Come prepared for extreme heat, rain, or even snow!

    I currently live outside of New York State, will I be able to attend?

    Out-of-state graduates and their guests will be invited to attend the on-campus ceremonies, but will be expected to follow all New York State guidelines for travel and quarantine.  Please visit the NYS Travel Advisory website for specific and up-to-date instructions. Please note that the college is not able to provide on-campus housing accommodations to anyone who is not a current resident student, so plan your travel accordingly.

    What precautions will the college take to comply with COVID safety guidelines?

    All staff and attendees will be required to wear face masks and complete an on-site symptom screener prior to entry. In addition, only those who RSVP in advance by April 21 will be permitted to enter the ceremony. We will adhere to social distancing guidelines of 6 feet at all times.  Graduates will not process in as a group into the ceremony to allow for social distancing. Instead, they will be directed to assigned seats upon admission to the ceremony. Guest seating will be available on a first-come, first-served basis in groups of two. Guests not living in the same household who wish to sit separately will be able to do so, as well.

    How will graduates be acknowledged during the on-campus ceremonies?

    The names of all graduates who attend the ceremonies will be read aloud to acknowledge their achievements. Graduates will process across the stage, while maintaining a safe social distance from each other, when their names are called. We will forgo the customary handshake this year in the interest of public health.

    We are planning for professional photographers to be at the ceremony to capture the moment when graduates cross the stage. The new state guidelines specifically allow a graduate to remove their mask to cross the stage and for the photo. Just as in prior years, graduates will have the opportunity to purchase these photographs after the ceremony directly through the vendor. The guidelines prohibit people congregating near the stage to take photos. Please be sure your guests know that they will not be able to approach the stage to take a photo when your name is called, as guests must remain seated throughout the ceremony.  

    In addition, all graduates in attendance will be provided with a Russell Sage College memento at the conclusion of the ceremony to mark this special occasion.

    Will I be required to purchase and wear my cap and gown for these smaller celebrations? 

    No. Our on-campus graduation ceremonies will be “Regalia Optional” events. This means that students who purchase caps and gowns will be able to wear them at their graduation ceremony. It also means that those who do not wish to purchase caps and gowns will not be excluded from these events; they can opt to wear professional/business attire instead. We want these celebrations to be as inclusive as possible.

    Even though academic regalia is not required for the on-campus graduation celebration, can I still purchase a cap and gown if I choose?

    Yes. Students can purchase commencement regalia (cap and gown), if they choose.  Visit the Commencement webpage for more details. Regalia orders will be due by 11:59PM on April 21. Note that orders submitted after April 1 will incur expedited shipping fees to ensure delivery by May 10.

    Will I still be awarded my degree even though there is not the typical large Commencement ceremony?

    Yes! As usual, students who submit a graduation application to the registrar’s office and meet all degree requirements by the end of the spring term will be awarded their degrees.  As of May 15, 2021, these students can consider themselves graduates.

    When will May 2021 graduates receive their diplomas? 

    The registrar’s office mails out diplomas (and diploma covers for those who did not attend a graduation ceremony) to May graduates by late June. Diplomas are mailed to the address you provided to the college with your graduation application. If you need to verify the address you provided, please email [email protected].

    Will 2020 and 2021 graduates be permitted to participate in a large commencement ceremony at Sage in the future? 

    With the uncertainty of these times, we cannot continue to postpone the celebration of our graduates. While we regret that we cannot offer you our large, typical commencement ceremony due to pandemic restrictions, we do not wish to further delay recognizing your degree conferral.  We believe that these on-campus, student-centered community celebrations are the best way to honor your achievements as you move forward in your careers, while continuing to prioritize the health and safety of our community.

    I do not plan to attend any of this year’s graduation ceremonies. Do I need to RSVP and let you know that?

    No. If you do not plan to attend one of the ceremonies on May 11 or 12, you do not need to submit the online reservation request or RSVP in any way. We will assume that anyone who does not submit an online reservation request by April 21 does not plan to participate.

    How will graduates receive updates about the upcoming graduation celebrations?

    The Student Life Office will send out regular messages to all students who qualify to participate in the May 2020 and May 2021 commencement ceremonies through the email addresses that you provided to the registrar’s office with your graduation applications. If you would like to provide us with updated contact information, please email us directly or provide it when you RSVP to your ceremony by April 21.

    We are happy to answer any additional questions you may have. Please reach out directly to the Student Life Office at 518-244-2207 or [email protected].