Published: May 6, 2021 By

Family and friends of the class of 2021 celebrated Thursday as more than 9,000 graduates officially earned their degrees after years of hard work and challenges overcome––particularly over the past year––joining 300,000 CU Boulder alumni worldwide.

Valeria Ayala Alonso celebrates after getting her photo taken at Folsom Field during Grad Appreciation Days events

Valeria Ayala Alonso, a molecular biology and psychology double major, celebrates after getting her photo taken at Folsom Field during CU Boulder’s Grad Appreciation Days events on April 23, 2021. (Photo by Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado)

The virtual commencement ceremony, the second in the university’s history due to the COVID-19 pandemic, began with footage of the ceremonial mace traveling to iconic locations on and off campus, from the Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre to The Sink restaurant on University Hill. 

The mace was created for the commencement ceremonies of May 1984. At its base is the university’s motto, translated as “Let your light shine” circling the crown in Greek characters. 

Speaker Dwinita “Nita” Mosby Tyler, founder of The Equity Project, a consulting firm supporting organizations and communities in building diversity, equity and inclusion strategies, noted it can be difficult to see the light sometimes.

“We are living in complicated times and sometimes it’s tough to see the light, the hope, the brightness,” she said. “Know that sometimes the greatest life lessons sit in this complication.” 

Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano praised the class of 2021 for not waiting to graduate to make a difference.

“You have not waited to graduate to engage and change the world,” he said. “In your time here, you have advocated for social change and racial equality. You are already creating the world in which you want to live, succeed, thrive and pass on to the next generation.”

DiStefano also highlighted that the class of 2021 “persevered through one of the most difficult times in the university’s 145-year history.”

“Congratulations. You are a historic class.”

Presenting tomorrow’s leaders: The class of 2021

Read from a few of the many talented, motivated and innovative students who are graduating and starting on their next adventure. As they become Forever Buffs, they leave their inspirational legacies––with advice and reflection––for those who follow. 

Meantime, College of Music master’s degree candidate Nnamdi Nwankwo sang the National Anthem, and Senior Class Council President Allie Reuter congratulated her peers and encouraged them to live true to their values. 

“Today I want to ask you to consider two things. First, do you know what you value in life, and second, do your actions demonstrate these values?” 

Further, Reuter acknowledged that mistakes are inevitable in life.

“What I am sure of is that we will own our mistakes. We will grow from them and we will leverage them to draw closer to understanding what we value in life.”

The event, moderated by Commencement Marshal Bud Coleman, theater and dance professor, included a senior class video featuring scenes from the past four years across campus. 

About 9,000 undergraduate and graduate degrees were conferred. The degree candidates are from fall 2020 and spring and summer 2021. They include 6,967 bachelor’s degrees, 1,747 master’s degrees, 402 doctoral degrees and 191 law degree candidates. (These numbers were accurate as of May 4 but could shift as final degree numbers are verified.) 

Newly minted #ForeverBuffs took to social media channels along with their family and friends to celebrate their special day in real-time. 

Class of 2021 graduates also participated in in-person Grad Appreciation Days activities on campus over the past few weeks leading up to Thursday’s virtual commencement ceremony, such as various selfie stations on campus, a walk across a stage at Folsom Field in cap and gown, and a place to decorate their caps.