Walking across the stage for commencement is a moment that many graduates anticipate and treasure. Receiving the degree placed into their hands marks the official end of assignments, studying, and exams. What happens when a pandemic prevents gatherings and classes have moved online? How can students graduate without being able to gather?
Universities and colleges navigating how to celebrate their students, while abiding by their governments’ regulations to curb the spread of COVID-19, have made different choices. Here are six examples and one student’s take:
1. Trinity Christian College
The 2020 commencement ceremony at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Ill., had been scheduled for May 2. Rescheduled to December, the school also hosted a virtual degree conferral ceremony, streamed on the morning of the original date. In a March 20 letter to students and faculty, college president Kurt D. Dykstra wrote, “... our graduates have earned their degrees and they deserve our plaudits … postponing a ceremony does not equal postponing the conferral of a degree!”
2. Dordt University
Dordt University in Sioux Center, Iowa, is hosting its virtual, livestreamed commencement May 8. “The university’s goal is to provide students and families with a meaningful experience that honors students’ achievements as graduates, even if Dordt cannot hold an in-person event this spring,” said the school’s April 23 announcement. “Forty percent of our student body come from 400 miles away or further, and we knew that many graduates would begin working or enroll in graduate school in the coming months, so they might not have the vacation time or the ability to return to campus if we postponed our commencement ceremony,” said director of marketing and communication, Sarah Moss.
3. Calvin University
Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Mich., has made the decision to postpone their 100th commencement ceremony, which was originally scheduled for May 23, to Oct. 3, 2020. Communication about the plan said the decision was made “after consulting with eight student representatives, surveying the entire graduating class, and having conversations with members of Calvin’s parent council.” At the time of writing, plans have not been communicated for Calvin Theological Seminary’s recognition of graduates. Candidates for ministry in the Christian Reformed Church, who are usually presented at synod (the annual leadership gathering of the CRC), will be approved in the special June meeting of the Council of Delegates.
4 & 5. The King’s University and Redeemer University
The King’s University in Edmonton, Alta., and Redeemer University in Ancaster, Ont., also have postponed their commencements until the fall. David Zietsma, Redeemer’s provost, said postponing an in-person event would recognize the school’s value of authentic community. “We want the graduation ceremony to continue to reflect that as much as possible."
6. Institute for Christian Studies
Institute for Christian Studies, a Christian graduate school in Toronto, Ont., opted to cancel their 2020 convocation, explaining in an April 1 update that their “current intention is to honour our 2020 graduates together with our 2021 graduates at our Convocation next May.”
One 2020 graduate, Tobie Brinkman, a member of Calvin Christian Reformed Church in Ottawa, Ont., and a graduating student from Redeemer University, expressed the bittersweet feeling of many students. “After a long journey of getting here, an even longer wait isn’t ideal for the final step and the needed closure, but when it finally happens, the reunion with our fellow classmates after this pandemic will be that much sweeter.”
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