USC held its first in-person graduation ceremony since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic Friday, and it was also the first at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum since 1950 and featured the first Black valedictorian in the university’s 140-year history.

The series of commencement ceremonies are honoring not only Trojans from the class of 2021, but also the class of 2020, whose in-person ceremony was put on hold due to the pandemic. To accommodate the 1,500 graduates and social distancing, it will take seven days to give each graduate the pomp and circumstance they deserve, including crossing the stage to accept a diploma.

The first ceremony began at 8 a.m. and was livestreamed online.

USC President Carol Folt told the graduates, “COVID didn’t derail or defeat you. It certainly didn’t define you. You wouldn’t let it, and we wouldn’t either.”

Tianna Shaw-Wakeman, a senior majoring in psychology and the first Black valedictorian in university history, put into words what her accomplishment means.

“This revelation stands as a testament, albeit small, to both how far we’ve come as an institution, as a country … and how far we have to go,” she said.

The event combined elements of USC’s traditional main graduation ceremony with those of individual school and college ceremonies. Graduates in all ceremonies will have the opportunity to proceed across the stage, hear their name announced, receive their diploma covers and have photos taken while projected on gigantic screens at the stadium.

Participation is expected by the full graduating classes of 2020 and 2021, including international students who were permitted to travel to the United States. Due to distancing requirements, it will not be possible to hood doctoral candidates. Hooding ceremonies will take place in the future when restrictions are lifted.

Friday’s commencement address was given by Bina Venkataraman, an American journalist, author and policy expert. She is the editorial page editor at The Boston Globe and formerly served as senior adviser for climate change innovation for the White House.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, pre-registration is required of graduates and guests — a maximum of two guests per graduate is allowed. Pre-registered graduates and guests will have received information with attendance requirements, which include social distancing and wearing face coverings.

Anyone who has not pre-registered will not be permitted inside the Coliseum. Gatherings are not allowed outside the stadium.

For complete information, go to the USC commencement 2021 website at

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *