Pittsburg State University has announced commencement plans for spring and summer 2020 graduates as well as this semester’s graduates. The ceremonies will take place Friday, Nov. 20 and Saturday Nov. 21. and will be in person rather than virtual.
“I’m just glad it’s going to happen,” said Cory Epps, senior in criminal justice. “Some high schoolers didn’t get a chance to even have a graduation so I’m glad to have something. I mean we worked hard all these four years, we should be able to walk across the stage.”
This year’s commencement, however, will be smaller than normal in order to comply with health and safety regulations. Strategies to keep everyone safe includes keeping graduates and their families together as opposed to them mixing into a crowd, strict social distancing, masks being required with the exception of students during the time they get professional photos of receiving their diploma, and each ceremony being in near-constant movement with no seating. Additionally, each graduate will be issued four tickets for guests and each ceremony will be livestreamed to accommodate additional family and friends not able to attend in-person.
These adjustments were made by the commencement committee and were based off responses from student surveys and were approved by Crawford County health officials.
“There were a couple of surveys that were sent to students,” said PSU registrar Melinda Roelfs. “We asked…for them to identify what they considered the most important elements of a graduation ceremony and so we wanted to start with those and in our plan, we wanted to make sure we were able, the best we can considering the situation, to incorporate those essential elements.”
Once hearing from students about what elements should be included in the ceremony, the committee approached health officials from Crawford County and the Bryant Student Health Center for their opinions.
“We went over our proposal and once we got their initial feedback, we submitted a formal proposal,” Roelfs said. “We did in that initial conversation with the health officials, we did ask for their opinions on a couple of things they were planning, and they were very helpful with that. We did submit a formal mitigation plan to the Crawford County health officials and they did approve it. So that was certainly a big piece as well. We wanted to ensure everyone’s safety and so it was very comforting to get that approval back from them.”
The committee also considered COVID capacities for the facilities the ceremonies will be held in.
“So, we did base… the time schedules.., and also the number of guests allowed based on those COVID capacities for those facilities,” Roelfs said.
Ceremonies will start in the Robert W. Plaster Center and then proceed to the Garfield Weede Building. Fall 2020 graduates will have ceremonies Nov. 20 and in the morning of Nov. 21. The spring and summer 2020 graduates will have their ceremonies at 10:30 a.m. and noon of Nov. 21. Roelfs said they wanted to have a specific ceremony for previous graduates so there could be “something still just special for them.”
Macy Rae graduated in spring with a bachelors in family and consumer science and is glad Pitt State will still have a ceremony for previous graduates.
“Even though it is late, I still think it’s important that Pitt is still having a ceremony,” Rae said. “There’s many people, like myself, that are the first ones in their family to graduate from college so having the ceremony, even though it is late, is a good way to commemorate their achievements.”
For some students, the change in schedule is hard to envision.
“I don’t really know what to expect because it’s something that’s never been done before, so I’m having a hard time envisioning how it’s going to work,” said Caroline Doel, senior in communication, who is set to graduate in November. “But hopefully it works out and this is for the best.”
However, Doel said she is still grateful to have a ceremony as “some people don’t even get that.”
Roelf’s said they believed it was important to have a ceremony even with adjustments, not only for the students but also for faculty and staff who bond with the graduates since “they grow very connected to the students.”
“I think everyone on campus feels like commencement is one of the most meaningful events, and it’s certainly nice to see those students complete that chapter in their lives.” Roelfs said. “We feel like (commencement) is a really important piece of the entire college experience and is important to the graduate but it’s also important to the culture of the institution.”