Drive-in ceremonies to honor ’20 and ’21 graduates

California Lutheran University will honor 2020 and 2021 graduates at drive-in, in-person ceremonies attended by their classmates and families at the Ventura County Fairgrounds.

Cal Lutheran will hold the 2021 Traditional Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 8, and the 2021 Graduate and Professionals Commencement Ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 15.

The 2020 graduates, who were honored at virtual commencement ceremonies last year because of public health restrictions, also will be celebrated at the fairgrounds during this time period. A schedule will be announced after the 2020 graduates are polled.

The graduates will be able to walk across the stage if Ventura County is in the “Red Tier” or higher as outlined under current state and county public health guidelines. If the county is in a more restrictive tier, photos of graduates would appear on four large LED screens as their names are announced.

Each graduate can bring one car full of people to the fairgrounds parking lot, which can accommodate up to 700 vehicles at a time. There will be a four-sided, theater-in-the-round stage, and attendees will tune in to the state-of-the-art sound system through their car radios. All state and county COVID-19-related guidelines will be followed. The events will be livestreamed for those who can’t attend in person. CBF Productions will draw on its experience presenting its successful Concert in Your Car series at the fairgrounds to produce the ceremonies.

Other universities have announced plans for virtual ceremonies or small-scale in-person commencements on their campuses without guests or broken down into smaller gatherings by area of study. Cal Lutheran administrators wanted to provide an in-person opportunity for graduates to celebrate with family and all of their classmates while following all public health protocols.

“We wanted to do something special that our graduates will fondly remember, given everything they have gone through,” President Lori E. Varlotta said. “We are pleased to have found a venue that allows university faculty and staff to celebrate — in person — the incredible accomplishments of our graduates. Knowing that graduates will be accompanied by a few family members or friends makes it all the better.”

Cal Lutheran offers programs to about 4,000 students through its College of Arts and Sciences, Graduate School of Education, Graduate School of Psychology, School of Management, and School of Professional and Continuing Studies. Members of the Cal Lutheran student body come from across the nation and around the world and represent a diversity of faiths and cultures.