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Commencement exercises

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, will host 10 in-person commencement ceremonies November 19–22 at Thompson-Boling Arena for spring, summer, and fall 2020 graduates. The socially-distanced ceremonies will have additional health and safety protocols in place so graduates and their families can safely gather to celebrate their momentous accomplishments.

“Though the ceremonies will look a little different, we have worked to preserve the spirit of a typical commencement so we can celebrate all our graduates, who have worked so hard for this moment,” said Provost John Zomchick.

In total, the university will award 1,220 undergraduate degrees, 583 graduate degrees and certificates, and three law degrees this fall. Two Air Force ROTC cadets will be commissioned along with nine Army ROTC cadets. Ceremonies are grouped by spring and summer graduates or fall graduates. They will include both those receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Over 600 spring and summer graduates registered for the ceremonies.

Amanda Restaino, a spring 2020 graduate from Tampa, Florida, is excited about returning to campus to share this moment with her family. She was upset when commencement was postponed in May but is now eager to come back and reclaim graduation.

“I feel like I need this ceremony to finalize my undergraduate college career,” Restaino said. “I’m coming back so my family can get to see me walk and so that they can also have that special moment, knowing that all of their support paid off.”

Robyn Helms, a fall 2020 graduate from Memphis, Tennessee, said getting to walk across the stage at graduation is one of those moments she’s looked forward to for a long time.

“It’s important to me and it’s important to my family,” she said. “I’m really grateful UT is taking these precautions so that we can feel comfortable celebrating in person.”

Dates and times for each ceremony are available on the Commencement website.

About the Ceremonies

Each ceremony is limited to 200 graduates with a defined number of guests. Everyone will be required to wear a mask. All graduate and guest seating is assigned and socially distanced.

During the ceremonies, graduates will hear from UT administrators and various student speakers including Karmen Jones, current student body president; Erica Grant, doctor of philosophy; and John Brown, doctor of jurisprudence. There will be a contactless stage crossing with no handshakes or physical hooding. After crossing the stage, graduates will not return to their seat on the arena floor. Instead they will exit backstage. This change will help limit large crowds exiting the arena at one time.

Signage will be displayed to direct graduates and guests to the correct locations. Graduates are strongly encouraged to make a plan to meet up with their guests in the parking garage or elsewhere after the ceremony.

Inside the arena, there will be periodic pauses in calling graduate names to allow guests to exit the arena shortly after their graduate has exited. These pauses will be announced from the podium. To refrain from disrupting the ceremony, guests are asked to remain in their seats until the next pause is announced.

Parking and Security

Graduates and their guests may park in the G10 and G5 parking garages. Graduates should enter the building at the lower level media entrance, which is located between the G10 garage and the arena. Guests should enter the arena on the concourse levels. Gates B, C, D, E, F will be open. Tickets are required for all guests.

Doors will open 90 minutes before the beginning of the ceremony. The arena’s large event security protocol will be enforced. Guests may enter the arena with one clear plastic bag no larger than 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches. Binoculars, cameras, and video cameras are permissible without cases. Walk-through metal detectors will be in place and operational at all entrances.

Smoking, including e-cigarettes, is prohibited in and on all university property, including in private vehicles parked or in operation on university property.

For more information on what items are allowed and prohibited in the arena as well as security policy, visit the Commencement website or contact the Thompson-Boling Arena management office at 865-974-0953.


Maddie Stephens (865-974-3993,