After an Unprecedented Year, an Unconventional Commencement

Dean Eboni S. Nelson and Class of 2021 graduates
After an Unprecedented Year, an Unconventional Commencement
May 10, 2021

Speaking at a live commencement ceremony reconfigured by the global pandemic, Dean Eboni S. Nelson told graduates of the UConn School of Law that they are well-prepared to put their new degrees to work in the cause of justice.

“The expectations we have for each of you are quite high, and you may be wondering ‘Am I ready?’” Nelson said. “You are ready, and you will succeed. This is what you have been trained to do, and in many ways, this is what you have already been doing during your time in law school.”

The ceremony, held at Rentschler Field in East Hartford on May 8, 2021, recognized the graduates of UConn’s schools of Law, Medicine and Pharmacy, along with those earning doctoral degrees from the Graduate School. It was attended by 117 masked UConn Law graduates, along with family and friends sitting in socially distanced groups in the 40,000-seat stadium.

On May 16, 2021, the date originally set for its 98th commencement, the law school will hold a virtual ceremony honoring all its graduates, including 139 receiving Juris Doctor, or JD degrees; 49 receiving Master of Laws or LLM degrees; and one earning a Doctor of the Science of Laws or SJD.

Although UConn Law graduates sat apart from one another and from guests, the live ceremony provided a moment of togetherness for many who had not been on campus together since March 2020, when the law school shifted to online classes.

“I was able to see so many faces that I've missed due to virtual learning,” said Dorianne Salmon ’21. “All of our 1L memories came full circle, and we were able to reconnect and wish each other well on our respective journeys."

“My family was so thankful to be able to attend an in-person graduation,” said Haley Hinton ’21. “While it may have been different this year, it meant a lot to them and to me.”

Many of the graduates of the Class of 2021 spent almost half their time in law school learning virtually. Nelson, who took office as dean in July 2020, noted that she had not been able even to meet most of the students in person. Despite the unusual and difficult circumstances, she said, the graduates made impressive contributions through their clinical, volunteer and professional work throughout law school.

“I stand here in awe of each of you as I think about the perseverance you have demonstrated,” Nelson said. “Despite the obstacles, you overcame them all and accomplished great things along the way.”

The University also presented a virtual ceremony on May 8 for all 2021 graduates, featuring as guest speaker Miguel Cardona, the U.S. secretary of education, who holds four UConn degrees.  The University also scheduled in-person ceremonies on May 8 and 10 for all its 2020 graduates, whose traditional commencement ceremonies were canceled in the early days of the pandemic.

The law school’s virtual ceremony for the Class of 2021 will be held at 10 a.m. on May 16, 2021. All students, family and friends are invited to attend.

See more photos of the 2021 commencement on Flickr.