Providence Campus
2021 Commencement (updated 4/5/2021)

The custom of graduating students coming together in a ceremony dates back to the twelfth century. The world certainly looks much different today than it did back then, or even just a few years ago, yet many of the rituals and celebrations of commencement have endured. Every year, the faculty, staff and administration at Johnson & Wales University look forward to our spring tradition of recognizing our students’ successful completion of their college degrees.

Once again, for our commencement planning, we were challenged to be creative to present the traditional elements of graduation while abiding by the government constraints that are in place. To celebrate the achievements of our Classes of 2020 and 2021 in-person this May, all eligible undergraduate and graduate students will be invited to participate in a celebratory Grad Walk, hosted on our Harborside Campus. (Note: Students completing their doctoral and physician assistant degrees will be notified regarding separate commencement plans).

We are so pleased that we can come together in May to celebrate our students’ extraordinary achievement - the completion of their JWU degree! Please review the following Frequently Asked Questions. Messaging regarding registration for the Grad Walk will be shared in the coming weeks. As we continue to monitor government restrictions and recommended health protocols surrounding COVID-19, we will communicate any changes in our commencement plans for May.

What is a Grad Walk?
It gives graduates and eligible graduating students an opportunity to walk across a celebratory stage while having their names announced, one by one, group by group (scroll down for Grad Walk dates). Each Grad Walk should take no longer than 15 minutes (this is an approximation only and could be more or less). Sign-up registration is required to participate (instructions were emailed on March 31; check your JWU email account). This is a physically distanced event; there will be no hand shaking, hugging, etc. Participants and guests will be guided to: 

  • Park vehicles in Lot E (located behind the Wildcat Center)
  • Enter through Delaney gym for check-in
  • Show proof of negative COVID-19 test result
  • Pick up name card and diploma cover
  • Line up to cross the celebratory stage (graduates/graduating students only)
  • Stand in the audience (guests only)
  • Exit the gym and proceed out the main entrance to the Wildcat Statue

Are guests allowed at the Grad Walk? Each graduate/graduating student may have a maximum of two guests present during their assigned time to witness this important moment in their life. Tickets are not required, but refer to the COVID-19 testing requirement in the next question. Note: Every Grad Walk will be livestreamed so faculty, staff and additional family and friends can virtually view and celebrate graduates (scroll down for links).

Will negative COVID-19 test results be required of all participants and guests? Yes. Negative COVID-19 test results (taken within 48 hours prior to the event date) must be presented before being cleared to enter the Wildcat Center. Visit for testing information in Rhode Island. Security & staff will be checking and verifying testing results (and enforcing the two-guest maximum). Note: Per government regulations, testing is still required for individuals who have been vaccinated.

Will face masks be required? Yes, masks are required (this applies to vaccinated individuals as well). Wear one that is at least two layers thick and fits snugly but comfortably over your nose, mouth and chin without any gaps. When approaching and crossing the stage, participants may temporarily pull off their face masks to allow for photography. Immediately upon exiting the stage, masks must be worn fully. All guests and attendees must wear their masks fully at all times.

Will there be professional photographers at the Grad Walk? Yes, GradImages will be present to photograph each graduate as they cross the stage (visit their website following the event to access photos). 

Can I stay on Harborside or go to the Downcity Campus to take photos? Yes, we encourage you to find your favorite spot for photos on either campus, while practicing safe physical distancing.

Who is eligible to participate in the Grad Walk? Anyone from the class of 2020 or 2021 who has met commencement ceremony eligibility. Please contact Student Academic Services if you have any questions. Note: Students completing their doctoral and physician assistant degrees will be notified regarding commencement plans at a later date.

What are the plans for the Physician Assistant and Educational Leadership programs? Your program directors will provide direct updates. A special ceremony for PA graduates is planned for May 14, 2021 (10am in Schneider Auditorium); no guests can be accommodated, but it will be streamed for live and on-demand viewing. A special ceremony for doctoral graduates is planned for August 20, 2021 (time to be determined).

When and where are the Grad Walks? They will take place at the Wildcat Center on the Harborside Campus. Grad Walks will be organized by colleges and will occur over the course of four days: May 5-8, 2021. Each small group will be staggered, one after the other. Planned celebrations will be held as follows:

  • Wednesday, May 5: Undergraduate Programs (all colleges), Class of 2020
  • Thursday, May 6: Graduate Studies Programs (all colleges), Classes of 2020 & 2021
  • Friday, May 7, Morning: Undergraduate Programs (Colleges of Food Innovation & Technology and Health & Wellness), Class of 2021
  • Friday, May 7, Afternoon: Undergraduate Programs (Colleges of Engineering & Design and Hospitality Management), Class of 2021
  • Saturday, May 8: Undergraduate Programs (Colleges of Arts & Sciences and Business), Class of 2021

How do I sign up to participate in the Grad Walk? Instructions were emailed on March 31; check your JWU email account. Sign-up is first-come, first-served. Note: The registration deadline is April 16, 2021.

Will the Grad Walk be live-streamed and/or recorded? Yes, each Grad Walk can be viewed live or anytime on-demand via the following links:

What if I require an accommodation or ambulatory assistance to participate in the Grad Walk? Please email JWU Special Events at

When do I receive my diploma? Diplomas do not get distributed in person (and will not be given out at the Grad Walk). They are printed and mailed after the degree or certificate verification process is complete, which occurs approximately six-to-eight business weeks after the end of each semester. Students who participate in the Grad Walk will receive a diploma cover (or diploma tube for graduate programs).

How do I get my cap and gown? An email was sent to your JWU email address detailing online ordering instructions. April 1 is the deadline. If you miss the deadline, you may proceed with your online order, but you will have to pay for express shipping. Alternatively, you may call the Harborside Bookstore at 401-598-1478.

Who gets an Academic Hood and how? All graduating students except AS degree candidates will receive an Academic Hood. It will be provided along with your cap & gown order.

Who gets a Gold Cord and how? Undergraduates with a 3.4 or higher GPA as of the fall semester will receive a Gold Cord. They will be distributed through the Harborside Bookstore, which will be open before each Grad Walk. If you are not attending the Grad Walk, you may call the Harborside Bookstore at 401-598-1478.

I’m an Honors Program student. How do I get my Honors Gold Stole? Graduating honors program students with a 3.4 or higher GPA as of the fall semester will receive an Honors Gold Stole (given out by the program director). Please contact the honors program director.

Who gets a Blue & White Cord and how? Undergraduates who've participated in co-curricular activities designated by university parameters will receive a Blue & White Cord, which will be distributed by the applicable club or program director. It can be mailed if you are not present to be on campus.

Will there be a Grad Walk program? Yes. Programs, including the names of graduates & graduating students, will be printed and available digitally on this webpage.

I’m a North Miami or Denver student who transferred to Providence. Can I still participate in commencement plans for my original campus? Can I also participate in Providence commencement plans? You can participate in plans for both campuses, just one, or neither. It’s up to you. You will receive information from both campuses; however you wish to participate, please follow provided instructions. Direct any questions to the appropriate campus contact for commencement:

What if I have other questions? Please email