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Commencement 2021 By the Numbers

Closeup of hands putting garnet diploma into box

Swarthmore’s Commencement ceremony on June 6 will be held virtually, as a result of COVID-19. But this year’s online tribute follows a gathering held on campus last Sunday, during which the seniors celebrated their achievements with family and friends.

These events represent the culmination of four years of exploration and growth for seniors, spirited instruction and collaboration with the faculty, and multifaceted support of staff members from across campus. It’s a celebration for and by the entire College community.

But before final touches are made on the virtual presentation, let’s examine Swarthmore’s Commencement — its 149th — by the numbers.

  • 342: Graduating seniors
  • 342: Packages handed to seniors at last Sunday’s celebration or mailed to their homes, containing a diploma, T-shirt, alumni decal, and a congratulations packet from the Swarthmore Libraries
  • 342: Students offered Itea virginica (Henry’s Garnet) Virginia sweetspire plants, in keeping with tradition, as well as a package of cookies from Dining Services
  • 10+: Staff members — from the Campus & Community Store, Print Services, the Registrar’s Office, and the Post Office — who rolled the diplomas and assembled, handed out, and shipped packages
  • 320: Approximate number of students who elbow-bumped President Valerie Smith upon crossing the stage at last Sunday’s celebration
  • 1: Playing of Semisonic’s “Closing Time,” to conclude the celebration (which had its own Spotify playlist)
  • 1,150: Approximate number of chairs (color-coded for faculty, students, and guests) and program cards at the celebration
  • 800: Approximate number of ponchos distributed
  • 20: Ushers assisting with the celebration, along with four drivers
  • 200: Approximate number of breakfasts served by Dining Services prior to the celebration
  • 5+: Retiring faculty members attending their last graduation “send-off”
  • 40: Approximate number of other faculty members who attended the celebration
  • 25+: Students and staff members who helped to produce the virtual presentation, including senior class officers, the Music and Dance Department, and Communications
  • 1: Swarthmore College Chorus performance of “On the Day We Are Together Again” to open the virtual ceremony
  • 292: Seniors who submitted photos for the Commencement video
  • 3: Honorary degree recipients
  • 66: Students who are first in their family to graduate from college
  • 61: Students receiving honors
  • 185: Written exams administered across 23 subjects in the natural sciences, humanities, social sciences, and one interdisciplinary area
  • 252: Oral honors exams taken in 27 subjects, almost all on video conferencing sites like Zoom, with a few over telephone as a backup
  • 140: External honors examiners hosted, from across the U.S. and Canada, as well as France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and New Zealand
  • 10: Examiners who were also Swarthmore alumni

    The 2021 cohort of Swarthmore Summer Scholars is the third to graduate.

  • 1: Cohort — the third — of Swarthmore Summer Scholars to graduate
  • 60: Students with the most popular major, economics — one more than computer science
  • 52: Students with special majors, most commonly educational studies (12), astrophysics (6), and neuroscience (6)
  • 8: First-time special majors, including Black diasporic studies, computational biology, and global political economy
  • 139: Students with double majors
  • 186: Students with a minor
  • 3: Students with one of the College’s newest minors, global studies
  • 65: International and permanent resident students from 30 countries
  • 27: Students with dual citizenship in the U.S. and 12 additional countries
  • 43: States represented by students, in addition to Washington, D.C.
  • 27: Students with at least one parent who is an alum
  • 3: Students with at least one grandparent or great-grandparent who is an alum; two also have at least one parent who is an alum
  • 25: Other students with a Swarthmore family connection (sibling, cousin, aunt, or uncle)
  • 10+: National award winners, including a Marshall Scholar, three Fulbright U.S. Student Program grantees, two Goldwater Scholars (here and here), two National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellows, a Stanford University Innovation Fellow, and a Television Academy Foundation Summer Fellow
  • 1: Student who earned Pennsylvania teaching certification
  • 64+: Students who participated in varsity athletics
  • 5: Art majors who exhibited their senior thesis this spring
  • 7: Students to have their work featured at this year’s 10th Annual Tri-Co Film Festival or a previous year’s
  • 1: Student who stitched a community quilt
  • 3: Members of Swarthmore’s 2020–21 Green Advisors
  • 4: President’s Sustainability Research Fellows who recently presented their projects
  • 5: Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows
  • 6: Lang Opportunity Scholars
  • 3: Languages in which the virtual Commencement will be available (English with Spanish and Mandarin subtitles)
  • 2: Social media channels, Facebook and YouTube, on which the College’s virtual Commencement will be featured

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