COVID-19 Concerns Cancel In-Person UM Commencement

MISSOULA – As the worldwide coronavirus pandemic continues, the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education has canceled all in-person spring commencement ceremonies in the Montana University System.

Following this directive, the University of Montana will not host its traditional in-person graduation ceremonies scheduled for Saturday, May 9.

“We as a University share in the disappointment of our graduates and their families,” UM President Seth Bodnar said. “Commencement is a special day to celebrate the culmination of academic and personal achievements and is a hallowed occasion on our campus, marked by our students, faculty and staff.”

Bodnar said UM is developing options to help graduates and their families “celebrate now and later in Grizzly style.” Graduates will be surveyed for their input and ideas about how to make up for missing this treasured rite of passage. Some proposed plans are:

  • commemorating May 9 with a video highlighting students and the people, places and programs that UM special.
  • inviting spring graduates and their families back to campus in September or October for an in-person Commencement.
  • bringing Commencement to graduates by hosting ceremonies in population centers like Seattle, Portland and Spokane, as well as smaller towns such as Havre and Browning. These smaller ceremonies would take place in late summer or early fall.


“We appreciate the University giving students an opportunity to provide feedback for how we can try making up for the loss of Commencement,” said Abbigail Belcher, president of the Associated Students of UM and herself a graduating senior. “We are in a time of disruption, and I think what we come up with might be especially memorable and meaningful for our class.”

Students who already rented graduation regalia will receive full refunds. Diplomas will be mailed to the address on each student’s graduation application. UM will communicate extensively with its graduating students to ensure their needs are met in regards to Commencement.

Graduating students also may be invited to participate in smaller, more intimate Commencement ceremonies – possibly online – hosted by individual academic units.

“Again, we understand this is not the way any of us wanted to mark such a momentous occasion,” Bodnar said. “However we will ensure our graduates are honored in ways that represent the Grizzly spirit.”


 Contact: Paula Short, UM Strategic Communications spokesperson, 406-243-4023,