Commencement | Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis
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Commencement 2020

“I am deeply grateful to each of you for your patience, grace, and perseverance during this most extraordinary time.” – Mary McKay, Neidorff Family and Centene Corporation Dean of the Brown School

The coronavirus pandemic affected the 2020 Commencement celebrations on campuses across the globe as indelibly as it has affected every other ritual. In-person gatherings of family, friends and mentors gave way to driveway congratulations and socially distanced parties.

That makes the achievements of this year's cohort of changemakers even more exceptional.

Virtual Ceremonies and Celebrations

Washington University strove to honor graduates and their achievements, support them in their celebrations, and uphold commencement traditions in new ways.

The Brown School hosted a virtual recognition ceremony recognizing graduating doctoral and masters candidates, featuring messages from Dean Mary McKay, Chancellor Martin, and the Brown School's third annual student speaker, Tirae Abernathy. Affinity groups also found ways to celebrate and build community:

Plans have been announced for an alternate in-person WashU#20 Commencement Ceremony in 2021.

Faculty and Student Marshals

Under ordinary circumstances, student marshals represent the school by carrying the banners of their respective programs during the commencement ceremonies. This tradition honors their many contributions to the Brown School community:

  • MSW Marshal: Braveheart Gillani
  • MPH Marshal: Omoluyi Adesanya
  • MSW/MPH Marshal: Tamsen Reed
  • MSP Marshal: Shanshan Du
  • Faculty Marshal: Debra Haire-Joshu, Joyce Wood Professor

Alumni Messages

Brown School alums from all over the globe shared their reflections and wisdom to create the Messages From Alumni to Our 2020 Graduates

Many stressed that the new graduates' skills are imperative in helping the nation navigate the pandemic. "We desperate need you out her with us. Never has your experience, expertise and passion been more necessary," said Emily Stuart, MSW' 10.

"You are the future of our profession, a future that is in your hands and does not depend on a ceremony," added Barbara Whitman, MSW '73, PhD '81.

Social Media

Virtual celebrations inspired the creation of custom Brown School graduate social media tools for Commencement 2020. From Facebook frames to GIFs of mortarboards with swinging tassels, students and their loved ones had fun ways to celebrate this milestone.

Diplomas and Transcripts

Candidate degrees were officially conferred by the Chancellor and the Board of Trustees on Friday, May 15, 2020. Instead of picking them up in person at the yearly reception in the Clark-Fox forum, diplomas were mailed to the Diploma Mailing Address listed in WebStac.