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ASU to celebrate graduation with both virtual, in-person events

April 28, 2021

If there is one word to describe this spring’s graduating class, it’s resilient.  

The pandemic has brought about major changes in the way we live life, but through it all Arizona State University students have shown us what it means to overcome and push forward, committed to their success and future. 

On May 3, ASU will confer degrees to nearly 18,000 students — an 8% increase from spring 2020 — including more than 5,200 ASU Online students, a 24% increase over last May; more than 700 of those online students earned their degree through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan partnership. 

MORE: Meet notable grads from across ASU

Of the overall student total, nearly 12,200 are undergraduates and more than 5,500 are graduate students. The totals for resident, nonresident and international students who are graduating are all up over last year: 5%, 13% and 10%, respectively. Nearly 6,900 students are graduating with honors, the most ever for an individual class and a 5% increase over last spring.

Sun Devils are finishing strong, and the university is ready to celebrate them.

The livestreamed commencement/convocations videos, which premiere at 9 a.m. (Arizona time) Monday and can be viewed at anytime after that, allow friends and families to celebrate their graduate regardless of where they are across the globe. Find the links to those ceremonies at ceremonies will include a land acknowledgement, recognition of the original inhabitants of the land and the fact that the university campuses are situated in Indian Country, remarks by President Michael Crow and honor and award recipient recognitions.

And unlike last spring, when everything shifted remote, this time colleges will host a variety of in-person celebrationsAttendance is limited to graduating students only, for health protocol reasons. in addition to their virtual convocations. While not the traditional graduation celebration, their achievements will be celebrated in special ways with their college faculty and peers at a smaller scale as the nation continues its COVID-19 vaccination and mitigation efforts.

“We are incredibly proud of what our Sun Devils have accomplished during the past year of all-compassing changes and challenges wrought by the pandemic,” said Melissa Werner, executive director of the Office of University Events and Protocol and the Office of University Ceremonies. “Commencement is a such an important life milestone, and planners across the university have worked hard within health protocols to help students mark this special moment. Congratulations to all our new graduates!”

Celebrations by academic unit 

Barrett, The Honors College
  • Convocation: Virtual.
  • Celebration: Barrett will host in-person graduation appreciation events across the four metro Phoenix campus locations, including photo opportunities, medallion pickup and tokens of appreciation. Find dates and locations at the link below.
  • More information:
College of Global Futures
  • Convocation: Virtual.
  • Celebration: On May 3, Global Futures will host a "Gather Town" watch party, followed by a meet-and-greet photo opportunity with its dean and directors.
  • More information:
College of Health Solutions
  • Convocation: Virtual.
  • Celebration: CHS will host in-person events for doctoral hooding, a white coat ceremony for Doctor of Audiology students, a physically distanced walk-through celebration where graduates’ names will be read as they cross the stage, with the event livestreamed for friends and families. Professional photos will be taken.  
  • More information:
College of Integrative Sciences and Arts
  • Convocation: Virtual.
  • Celebration: CISA will host in-person photo opportunities at the Polytechnic, Tempe and Downtown Phoenix campuses for undergraduate and graduate students, in-person hooding ceremonies for graduate students and in-person and virtual receptions.
  • More information:
Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation
  • Convocation: Virtual.
  • Celebration: In-person celebrations will take place throughout the day Monday and Tuesday, May 3 and 4. Each attending grad will have their name called, walk across the stage, receive their diploma cover and have their photo taken in their academic regalia. The celebrations will also include collection of rose or nursing pins and hooding of graduates. 
  • More information:
Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts
  • Convocation: Virtual.
  • Celebration: Multiple in-person outdoor celebrations, grouped by school, will be held in the mornings and evenings of May 4 and 5 on the Tempe campus; these will be livestreamed for loved ones to watch. In addition, the Herberger Institute will host a virtual viewing party of the convocation ceremony with a live chat on May 3 and hosted a hooding opportunity for candidates receiving a terminal degree the last week of April.
  • More information:
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering
  • Convocation: Virtual.
  • Celebration: The engineering schools will host multiple hybrid celebration events, including a “virtual pre-party” at 8:30 a.m. May 3 in which graduates and their guests will be able to celebrate with faculty, advisers and staff in two custom 3D virtual ASU environments — Old Main and Sun Devil Stadium. After virtually socializing with friends and family at Old Main, participants will automatically be “transported” to the virtual Sun Devil Stadium to watch the one-hour convocation ceremony “on the big screen.”
  • More information:
Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College
New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences
  • Convocation: Virtual.
  • Celebration: Graduating students are invited to attend an on-campus convocation watch party the morning of May 3 in small locations around the West campus, as well as a virtual reception after the video premiere. In addition, on April 28 graduating students were invited to walk through the Paley Gates, ring the bell and visit other historic campus locations in a celebration of West campus traditions, with professional photographers at each stop.
  • More information:
Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law
  • Convocation: Virtual.
  • Celebration: In addition to completed in-person hooding video and photo opportunities, ASU Law will be hosting an in-person graduation viewing celebration on May 12. Rooms will be hosted by faculty members, and students will have the ability to select the room they would like to join, with physical distancing requirements and group limits to be followed. 
  • More information:
The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Convocation: Virtual.
  • Celebration: During the week of May 3, The College will host a series of small outdoor “meet and greet”-style gatherings for students that include photo opportunities and collection of their diploma case. 
  • More information:
Thunderbird School of Global Management
  • Convocation: Virtual.
  • Celebration: Thunderbird will host receptions for their graduates, which will include a photo opportunity with classmates and the dean and the distribution of diploma cases. Friends and family watching remotely will be displayed on a jumbo video screen while graduates celebrate in person with classmates.
  • More information:
Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication
  • Convocation: Virtual.
  • Celebration: The journalism school will host a graduation walk April 30, in which graduating students will have their name called and walk across the stage in the First Amendment Forum, receive their diploma cover and congratulations of the deans, and have their photo taken in academic regalia. This will be livestreamed for family and friends to watch. There will also be a virtual watch party on May 3.
  • More information:
Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions
W. P. Carey School of Business
  • Convocation: Virtual.
  • Celebration: The school will host in-person celebrations for undergraduates in which they pick up their diploma cover, get snapshots of the business campus and more; and for graduate and doctoral students at program-specific events. In addition to the in-person activities, W. P. Carey will host Club Carey, a virtual dance party streamed live from Sun Devil Stadium with a DJ, fireworks and more on the evening of May 3. 
  • More information: and
Lake Havasu @ ASU
  • Convocation: Virtual. To personalize the experience further, at the end of the recessional, Lake Havasu will play music and switch the view to each student celebrating with friends and family. 
  • Celebration: The Lake Havasu locaiton will host an informal, in-person, drive-thru car parade. During the parade, students can stop in front of the administration building (Santiago Hall), receive a celebratory welcome from faculty and staff, receive their diploma cover from a faculty member, and pose for a picture. Friends and family members in the car will remain in the car at all times and face coverings will be required. 

More resources

Top photo: Seth Nwosu flashes the pitchfork for his graduation portrait with GradImages outside Old Main on the Tempe campus on April 6. Nwosu, who is a student veteran, is earning his master's degree in legal studies and intellectual property. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Meenah Rincon

Public Relations Manager , ASU Online

For ASU film grad, laughter really is the best medicine

April 28, 2021

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.

For most people, graduating college caps off several years of hard work and perhaps some sleep deprivation. David Lew proudly shows off his ASU gear. Graduating ASU film and media studies major David Lew. Download Full Image

For Arizona State University student David Lew, graduation is all that and more. Since 2014, Lew has been battling stage 4 medullary thyroid cancer and undergoing chemotherapy treatments.

A working comedian, Lew’s motto is “If you don’t laugh, you don’t heal.” That mantra may have saved his life. With his cancer currently in remission, this proud dad and husband now works to help others reduce their stress and anxiety, having founded #BeThePOP — “Be the Purveyor of Positivity.”

Lew, who lives in Fairfield, California, in the Bay Area, is earning a Bachelor of Arts in film and media studies via ASU Online this spring. Completing the degree signals that he has overcome much. It also means that he is one step closer to being the man — and the dad — he wants to be.

We spoke to Lew about what it was like to take on the challenge of returning to college during such a difficult time.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study in your field?

Answer: For as long as I can remember, I have loved and consumed all forms of media. In high school, I thought I would go to film school and be a film director, but life had other plans. I gave up on my college education for over a decade. Then in 2014, I was diagnosed with stage 4 medullary thyroid cancer. In that same year, I married and then we found out we were having a baby. I decided it was important to me that my daughter see her dad graduate college, especially since my wife was working on her journey through nursing school. My wife and I researched schools, and I fell in love with ASU.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: I started my college journey at Solano Community College in September 2001. I was 18 years old. Here I am 20 years later, and I’m graduating from Arizona State University. I point that out because I learned that “it’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it!” I also learned that group projects are even more difficult online!

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: Their approach to higher education piqued my interest. They seemed to be constantly innovating their approach to online higher education. The reason I stayed at ASU was because of their constant support; huge shoutout to [English’s Associate Director of Academic Services] Linda Sullivan for dealing with my constant emails and advisement appointments! Besides the work I put in, without Linda, I would not be graduating.

Not to mention ASU has the best school colors out of any college! I found a school that matched my yellow glasses!

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: I would have to give a shoutout to [Instructional Designer] Andrew Salcido. Professor Salcido taught me the importance of a professor paying attention to a student who desperately wants to succeed, while also recognizing that the student needs a little assistance and some guidance. I took his class when I was feeling my worst. I was down to 135 pounds and I had zero energy for day-to-day tasks, let alone a college course. During the course he checked in on me and answered my questions almost immediately. Years later, he and I are still in constant contact and I consider him a friend. I had hoped the graduation ceremony would be in-person because Professor Salcido told me he’d be there to watch me graduate.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: “Do what others won’t to have what others don’t.” It’s all about the follow-through. I had someone along the way tell me, “Regardless of where you are in your educational journey, you can do it.” It’s all about the work you put in and the sacrifices you are willing to make. As a stand-up comedian, traveling and performing, I have had to take my laptop and books to shows! I would do my discussions and exams between shows or after shows. You would also definitely find me in the airport, MacBook plugged into an outlet, working on my discussion responses.

Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying?

A: Give me a good pair of noise-cancellation headphones and anywhere can be my study spot! I’ve studied in bars with my AirPods Pro in both ears. It helps to have a favorite Spotify playlist (Lo-Fi study beats is my go-to) so you can tune out the world.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: Too many to list! After attending ASU’s Film Spark workshop in December, I am collaborating with other ASU students to write and produce a short film. I’m also getting back to performing stand-up with my first club dates booked since the beginning of the pandemic. I’m excited to get back out there and perform in front of a crowd. I’m also in talks to work with Blueprint Medicines (manufacturers of the chemotherapy that has helped me in my cancer journey) to begin making public appearances on their behalf to share my success story with their treatment.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: Picking one is difficult, but homelessness is a huge concern to me, as well as financial burdens that weigh down everyday citizens. I would use the $40 million to fund universal basic income pilot programs. UBI is a government program in which every adult citizen receives a set amount of money on a regular basis. The goal of a basic income system is to alleviate poverty. Studies have shown with a $500 stipend each month, individuals paid bills, bought groceries, purchased kids' clothing. It’s a “trickle-up economy,” helping the very citizens that make our country so great.

Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang first championed this cause during his run for president, but it has been around for decades. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was championing a guaranteed income program when he was assassinated.

Kristen LaRue-Sandler

Manager, marketing + communications, Department of English