Message from the President - October 1, 2020
Dear Southern Miss Community:
Thank you for continuing to be our partners in upholding our COVID-19 Community Standards: Wear Your Mask, Keep Your Distance, Wash Hands Often, and Self-Screen Each Day. Despite all of the challenges we have faced during the pandemic, I believe we are well on our way to completing the semester strong, and I am confident we will reach this goal if we all continue to do our part.
As we continue to monitor evolving public health guidelines, many factors remain uncertain. In particular, we do not yet know what flu season will bring, and the timeline for a potential COVID-19 vaccine remains open-ended.
The health and safety of our USM community remain our top priorities. Following careful consideration and consultation with various stakeholders across the institution, I have accepted a joint recommendation from our Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and our Vice President for Student Affairs to approve a condensed academic calendar for the Spring 2021 semester. These changes are in line with national trends supporting health and safety, in an effort to limit travel and help prevent the potential spread of COVID-19.
The modified calendar includes an expanded schedule for Commencement ceremonies in May of 2021, which will take the place of Commencement ceremonies that were tentatively scheduled for this December. All graduates from our Spring, Summer, and Fall 2020 terms will have the opportunity to participate in Commencement ceremonies in May. Even though in-person ceremonies are deferred until May, summer and fall graduates will receive special recognition at the end of the fall semester to commemorate this important milestone.
Spring classes will still begin on Wednesday, January 20, and regular instruction will conclude Thursday, April 22. Exams will be conducted during an extended period from Friday, April 23 through Friday, April 30. The modified schedule eliminates the traditional Mardi Gras and Spring Break student holidays, but adds two new student holidays on Friday, February 19, and Friday, March 19. A University-wide holiday will be observed on Friday, April 2. The full Spring 2021 academic calendar will be posted on the Office of the Registrar’s website by October 2.
The University remains committed to making our Commencement traditions as special as possible for our students and their families despite the pandemic. The expanded schedule for May’s Commencement ceremonies is as follows.
Saturday’s ceremony will be held in Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi. All other ceremonies will be held in Bernard Reed Green Coliseum in Hattiesburg.
The Office of the Registrar will provide more information directly to students who are eligible to participate in May, including details about specific ceremony time assignments for undergraduates whose programs are housed in the College of Arts and Sciences.
After Fall 2020 grades have been processed, graduates may request final transcripts by following these instructions on the Office of the Registrar’s website. Diplomas for Fall 2020 graduates will be mailed approximately six weeks following the end of the semester. Diploma covers are traditionally distributed at Commencement ceremonies. Graduates who do not plan to participate in May’s ceremonies, or graduates who wish to receive a diploma cover in advance, may complete this request form to have a cover mailed to them. If you have immediate questions, please email graduationFREEMississippi.
Navigating this pandemic has certainly brought with it unexpected challenges, and I share in the disappointment of another difficult decision that impacts our graduates and their families. But I continue to be encouraged by the ways in which our Southern Miss family meets these challenges with determination and commitment – together. I sincerely appreciate your patience and your ongoing engagement as we work to ensure not only a successful end to our Fall 2020 semester, but also a productive Spring 2021 term.
I look forward to celebrating all of our graduates and their accomplishments in May.
Rodney D. Bennett