Virtual Commencement 2021

Image text: Harvard University, Graduate School of Design [GSD logo] Virtual Commencement 2021

Important information for Commencement 2021

Harvard University will again hold our Commencement celebrations virtually in 2021. The university, and the Harvard Graduate School of Design, remain committed to holding in-person events for our 2020 and 2021 graduates in the future.

We will join together virtually to honor the class of 2021 and confer their hard-earned degrees on Thursday, May 27, 2021.

The GSD’s programs will be livestreamed on the school’s YouTube channel and Kaltura. Closed-captioning will be available in both English and Spanish.

The GSD’s Class Day Address will be presented virtually by writer Jia Tolentino, a staff writer at the New Yorker and the author of the bestselling essay collection Trick Mirror. Additionally, the program will feature Class Day musical performances by Brandee Younger, Tomeka Reid Quartet, and Natural Information Society.

Schedule for Thursday, May 27

  • 10:30 am: Harvard University Virtual Awarding of Degrees
  • 12:30 pm: GSD Awards Ceremony
  • 1:10 pm: GSD Class Day Address by Jia Tolentino (timing is approximate)
  • 1:45 pm: GSD Diploma Ceremony (timing is approximate)
  • 3:30 pm: Department and program toasts to graduates begin
    • 3:30 pm: Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Urban Planning & Design
    • 4:00 pm: Design Studies, Design Engineering
    • 4:30 pm: Doctoral programs

All times EDT.
Links for toasts to graduates events will be shared by email.

In addition to ceremonies and social events, the Commencement Exhibition is another important part of our graduation celebrations, showcasing work by our graduating students. To view this year’s exhibitions, visit:

2021 Virtual Thesis Exhibition
2021 Commencement Exhibition

2021 Class Day Speaker

Headshot of Jia Tolentino, who wears a black shirt and has shoulder-length blonde hair. She sits at a desk with a pen and notebook, in front of a brick wall and mantle.
© Elena Mudd

Jia Tolentino is a staff writer at the New Yorker and the author of the bestselling essay collection Trick Mirror, which has been translated into eleven languages. She was the recipient of a Whiting Award, a MacDowell Fellowship, and the 2020 Jeannette Haien Ballard Writer’s Prize. She graduated from the University of Virginia, received her MFA in fiction from the University of Michigan, and lives in New York.

2021 Class Day Performers

Photograph of Tomeka Reid, who wears all black and stands with a cello in front of a red-orange wall.The Tomeka Reid Quartet featuring Jason Roebke, Tomas Fujiwara and Mary Halvorson performs original compositions composed by cellist, Tomeka Reid. Over the last decade, Reid has emerged as one of the most original, versatile, and curious musicians in Chicago’s bustling jazz and improvised music community. Her distinctive melodic sensibility has been featured in many distinguished ensembles over the years. Mary Halvorson is one of the most recognizable guitarists of her generation, a musician who’s won accolades (MacArthur Fellow) from both sides of the Atlantic, through her many projects. Tomas Fujiwara is one of the most sought after drummers on the New York scene. He leads and co-leads several dynamic ensembles and has also played in the Indian brass band Red Baraat. Bassist, Jason Roebke is also bandleader in his own right, scoring deserved praise with the debut recording by his octet in 2014; he’s also served as the harmonic anchor for a veritable who’s who of Chicago bandleaders. The Tomeka Reid Quartet is honored to have been asked to share in this momentous celebration and hope you will enjoy the music! Congratulations, class of 2021!!

Headshot of Brandee Younger, who wears a pink top, has curly dark brown hair, and stands in front of a large gold harp.
© Kyle Pompey

A leading voice of the harp today, performer, composer, educator and concert curator Brandee Younger defies genres and labels.  Recently awarded Rising Star Harpist in Downbeat Magazine’s 2020 Critics Poll, she has performed and recorded with artists including Pharoah Sanders, Ravi Coltrane, Jack Dejohnette, Charlie Haden, Common, John Legend, The Roots, Stevie Wonder and Lauryn Hill. In 2020, she released her fifth album Force Majeure and her original composition “Hortense” was featured in the Netflix Concert-Documentary, Beyoncé: Homecoming. In 2019, Ms. Younger was selected to perform her original music as a featured performer for Quincy Jones and Steve McQueens’Soundtrack of America”.  Ms. Younger’s ability to seamlessly inject the harp into arrangements and venues where it has historically been overlooked is a testament to her deep love for and exemplary command of the instrument.  In addition to performing, Ms. Younger is on the teaching artist faculty at New York University and The New School College of Performing Arts in New York City.

Ms. Younger earned her Bachelor of Music in Harp Performance at the Hartt School of Music and her Master of Music and Performing Arts Professions at New York University.   Past residencies and masterclasses include The Royal Conservatory of Music (Toronto), University of Birmingham (UK), Howard University, Drexel University, Princeton University, Tulane University, Trinity College, The Hartt School, University of Michigan, DePaul University and Berklee College of Music.

She holds leadership positions on the advisory board of New Music USA,  through the Apollo (theater) Young Patrons Steering Committee and the American Harp Society, Inc. where she is Director at Large.  As a concert curator, Ms Younger organized “Divine Ella,” part of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture’s annual Women’s Jazz Festival. She also served as curator of the 2016 Harp On Park concert series, “highlighting the diversity of the harp and the contemporary importance of an ancient instrument,” and most recently coordinated “Her Song,” featuring the works of women composers, both for Arts Brookfield. Ms. Younger has recorded five albums, and her first with a major label will be released by Verve-Universal in early August 2021

Image of musicians in the Natural Information Society, who are playing in front of a colorful geometric backdrop.For the past eleven years, Joshua Abrams has composed, recorded & toured with a shifting ensemble of musicians known as Natural Information Society (NIS). Grounded in Abrams’ interwoven & mutilayered compositions, the group’s long-form environments have been described as ecstatic minimalism. NIS navigates forms that emphasize collective listening & simultaneous differences while building a space that is both meditative & propulsive. Lisa Alvarado’s hanging paintings create a visual analog to the music & recontextualize performance space. Her work appears on the covers of the group’s six lps on Eremite Records & their collaboration with Bichin’ Bajas on Drag City Records. Their latest recording, descension (Out of Our Constrictions) features Evan Parker & notes by Theaster Gates. For this performance the group includes Abrams on guimbri,  Alvarado – harmonium, Kara Bershad – harp, Hamid Drake – tar, Nick Mazzarella – alto saxophone & Mai Sugimoto – flute.  

Outside of NIS, Abrams has played & recorded with a broad range of artists including Fred Anderson, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Nicole Mitchell & The Roots. He has composed scores to ten feature films including the Oscar nominated Abacus: Small Enough to Jail.  Abrams was a recipient of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts 2018 Grants to Artists award. Natural Information Society’s most recent album, descension (Out of Our Constrictions), was released earlier this month on Eremite Records.


If you have a question about GSD Commencement 2021, please contact [email protected].

To find resources for new graduates and information about future Commencement celebrations, visit the Commencement Resource page.

You may also wish to view the university-wide Commencement site.

Anyone requiring accessibility accommodations should contact the Public Programs Office at (617) 496-2414 or [email protected].