A collage (clockwise): 1. Graduation cap and printed materials sent to a student by NYU for their graduation. 2) A student sitting on their bed wearing a graduation cap. 3) A student holding their graduation cap. 4) A student showing off their decorated graduation cap.

The Class of 2020 has had anything but a typical senior year. Undeterred, they have overcome the challenges of a changing world. When the COVID-19 pandemic sent students home for the semester, classes went online. Clubs met over video chat. And everyone found increasingly creative ways to stay connected. That’s the true spirit of NYU: coming together across boundaries and despite obstacles to create and innovate. And at the NYU 2020 Commencement, we celebrated these enterprising graduates in style.

Watch the NYU 2020 Commencement Ceremony

Celebration for the Class of 2020

On May 20, students and their families tuned it to a video celebration, where NYU President Andrew Hamilton joined deans from every school to congratulate the Class of 2020. Notable alumni, including comedian Billy Crystal, Broadway performer André De Shields, and PBS NewsHour White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor made appearances. Each had a different message for the NYU 2020 Commencement audience. But one constant thread was obvious. Each expressed their boundless belief in the potential of this graduating class.

“This experience, unprecedented in our lifetime, will forever unite you as a class [...] but while this crisis bonds you, it does not define you.” —NYU President Andrew Hamilton

Attendees were also greeted by student leaders, like Gallatin senior Jakiyah Bradley, as well as alumni from the NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing, Adam Hadas and KP Mendoza, who both work on the front lines with COVID-19 patients in New York City.

“I know that you all have the capability to do great, compassionate things for other people and for this world.” —KP Mendoza, Rory Meyers College of Nursing Alum
Right: An Instagram story post for a graduation celebration for Latine students. Left: an Instagram post announcing Ericka Hart as a keynote speaker at NYU’s LGTBQ+ graduation celebration.
Celebrating Community and Identity

In addition to the All-University Commencement, students participated in smaller, community-based celebrations. For example, each school held a unique gathering. Additionally, the Center for Multicultural Education and Programs (CMEP) helped host virtual Cultural Graduations. These included celebrations for APID/A students, Latine students, and Black students. CMEP also joined forces with the LGBTQ+ Center to host Lavender Graduation for LGBTQ+ students. At the CCTOP Graduation, students who came to NYU through the Community College Transfer Opportunity Program honored the many paths through higher education, and saluted each other’s hard work and success.

“We all have a journey, and we all have a story to tell. [...] You are anything but ordinary. Your passion and motivation are on full display.” —Jonathan Williams, Assistant Vice President for Undergraduate Admissions, at the CCTOP Graduation Ceremony
Right: an announcement of the lighting of the Empire State Building in purple in celebration of graduation. Left: a student holding a cake and wearing their graduation cap.
The Empire State Building Goes Purple

Every year, the iconic Empire State Building lights up in NYU violet the night before graduation. For NYU 2020 Commencement, the tradition stayed strong.

Right: printed material sent to students to celebrate graduation. Left: a student wearing their graduation cap and holding up an NYU flag.
Graduation in a Box

Students got the chance to toss their graduation caps even though they weren’t gathered together in Yankee Stadium. Each graduating student received a special Commencement package in advance of the ceremony. That left plenty of time for many to customize their caps.

Favorite NYU Memories

The NYU 2020 Commencement Magazine spoke with student representatives from each school. They shared their NYU journeys and their hopes for the future. Here are some of their favorite memories from their time at NYU.

“My absolute favorite [NYU memory] is living in Third North residence hall my first year. I made friends with so many people there, people who I’m still extremely close with today. So much has changed since my first year, but the one thing that’s remained constant is those people and those relationships.” —Anna Betts, Tisch School of the Arts

“I will miss seeing Washington Square Park in the spring, the haunted 10th floor of Bobst Library, and the satisfaction of fully understanding a dense reading for class. Most of all, I will miss Lafayette Hall and the fantastic residential team I had the extreme joy of working with.” —Rebecca Brett, Liberal Studies

“I’ve spent the past years at NYU growing, learning, and building my own community and it will be hard to let it all go, but I know my time at NYU has prepared me for whatever comes next. I cherish NYU’s urban academic environment, my connections with professors, students, and alumni, and the ability to grow independently. I’m excited for what the future holds, but I will definitely miss being a student at NYU.” —Brittany Taam, Rory Meyers College of Nursing

Congratulations, #NYU2020! We can’t wait to see what you do next.

Cat has been telling NYU stories for nearly 10 years with NYU’s University Relations and Public Affairs Office of Marketing Communications and is constantly inspired by what the people of this community make real. She’s also a proud alum of the NYU MFA program in creative writing, and runs a literary magazine in her free time. When she needs to get away from words, she does work in her neighborhood gardens and parks.