Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - There will be two separate University of Montana commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 11, but only the 9:00 a.m. ceremony will feature Golden Globe Award winner and Academy Award nominee Lily Gladstone as the featured speaker.

I spoke with UM Director of Strategic Communications Dave Kuntz about the fast approaching event.

Award Winning Actress Lily Gladstone to Speak at UM Commencement

“It's really going to be a unique ceremony because as folks might know, we split our commencement into a morning ceremony and an afternoon ceremony,” began Kuntz. “Our graduating classes are large and things such as weather have required the convention to be indoors. In the morning ceremony, the commencement speaker is going to be Lily Gladstone, Academy Award nominee, and UM alumnus and we expect a lot of buzz around that speech and her appearance here on campus.”

Kuntz said the sheer number of graduates necessitates a morning and afternoon ceremony.

Nearly 2,000 Graduates will be Receiving Degrees on May 11

“We expect throughout the whole of the day that just under 2,000 folks will earn their degrees,” he said. "That’s about 1,000 in the morning and 1,000 in the afternoon. However, what really makes this class unique is the students who are graduating from the University of Montana are the students who came in as freshmen in 2020, right in the heat of the pandemic. This class was probably disrupted the most, with their senior high school cut short, and in their onboarding into college was really disrupted.”

Kuntz said there are some exciting new degrees being handed out for the first time at UM.

“For the first time ever, we'll have students receiving degrees in undergraduate studies in public health and environmental science,” he said. “These were some of the degree programs that the university was able to spin up in the early days of the pandemic based on the needs that we were seeing from students. We're excited to celebrate these students and their perseverance. Especially for me as you get to know some of these students over the years really see what they have waiting for them after commencement as they are taking jobs and life opportunities here in Montana and really across the world.”

Read More: Actress Lily Gladstone Shares Her Expertise With UM Acting Class

UM is Closed on Saturdays so Parking will be No Problem

Kuntz said parking should be no problem since the University is closed on Saturdays.

“Well, the nice thing is since the ceremonies are on Saturday, parking should be a lot easier than when we've had these events on Fridays in the past,” he said. “The parking lots are open that construction that disrupted the ceremony in recent years with the construction of the Montana Museum of Art and Culture has been all wrapped up. We will have some shuttles and their schedules are available on the commencement page on the UM website for those who want to park in other areas of town and then shuttle in.”

Denny Bedard and I (Peter Christian) have been honored to once again act as name readers for both commencement ceremonies.

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Gallery Credit: KC