College prepares for two weekends of smaller, in-person Commencement ceremonies

SUNY New Paltz will hold a series of smaller, shorter, in-person Commencement ceremonies for our 2021 graduates on May 14-16 and 2020 graduates on May 22-23, on the Old Main Quad on campus.

Ceremonies will occur rain-or-shine on consecutive weekends. The first weekend (as originally scheduled in the Academic Calendar) will be a 2021 Commencement for May and August 2021 candidates, and December 2020 and January 2021 graduates.

The second weekend (May 22-23) will be for our December 2019, January 2020, May 2020 and August 2020 graduates who were unable to participate in an in-person ceremony last year due to the pandemic.

“We have tried to balance health and safety concerns with providing our graduates with the celebration that they want and deserve,” said President Donald. P. Christian. “Our planning includes low-density, reduced-gathering-size, and streamlined outdoor ceremonies on campus, consistent with current state guidance on large event gatherings.”

Other health and safety policies, such as masking and social distancing, will be in place. Plans are subject to change based on COVID-19 numbers and public health guidance.

To hold in-person ceremonies, the College is unable to invite any guests to attend Commencement this year. The events will be live-streamed so that alumni, friends and family members can hear their graduate’s name called, watch them cross the stage and receive their diploma cover from the comfort and safety of home. The live streams will remain online and can be viewed on demand for one year after the event.

More information about this year’s Commencement ceremonies at SUNY New Paltz, including FAQs, are available at this link.

Valedictorian and Salutatorian to deliver Student Addresses virtually

SUNY New Paltz has named Rachel Brainerd ’20 (Visual Arts) of Poughkeepsie, New York, the valedictorian of the Class of 2021, and Sery Pak ’21 (Biology) of Orangeburg, New York, the salutatorian of the Class of 2021.

Their Student Addresses will be delivered as pre-recorded videos and featured on the Commencement Celebration page found online.

A member of the Honors Program and metal artist, Brainerd’s senior thesis featured wearable metal forms that illustrate the psychological effects of post-traumatic stress disorder in refugees. She plans on attending graduate school to earn her master’s degree and eventually her Ph.D. in art therapy. She currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she works for an agency that supports community-based living for individuals with developmental disabilities, and she’s been given the opportunity to direct a community-based street mural with her clients over the summer.

Use this link to learn more about Rachel Brainerd ’20.

Pak, an aspiring medical doctor, honed her skills as a humanitarian during her four years at New Paltz. She volunteered in Honduras with Global Brigades during the summers of 2018 and 2019, helping to set up health clinics, provide clean water and build eco-stoves for the local community. Additionally, she has interned at Ellenville Regional Hospital where she has helped to make healthcare more accessible and to reduce the over-usage of emergency room visits and hospitalizations within Ellenville’s rural community.

Use this link to learn more about Sery Pak ’21.


SUNY New Paltz’s Commencement ceremonies will be webcast online at