On Saturday, Oct. 24, USD will host a commencement ceremony for students who graduated in the spring of 2020 and would have walked if not for the pandemic.
The ceremony will be held for both undergraduate and graduate students and will take place at 9 a.m. in the Sanford Coyote Sports Center. Laura McNaughton, chief of staff in the president’s office, said 223 undergraduate students and 111 graduate students will walk. Each student may invite four people, as the capacity of the arena is limited to 2400 spectators to allow for social distancing.
McNaughton said the event will look a lot like a regular graduation, except masks are required, the graduates must physically distance and the crowd will be smaller than usual.
Normally, McNaughton said, about 900 undergraduates and 500 graduate students participate in their respective commencement ceremonies. She said attendance will be lower because many past students have moved on.
“We know that it’s after everyone has already graduated and they’ve all moved on and gotten jobs or gone to grad school, but President Gestring just really felt like it was important to allow graduates to have this opportunity to walk,” McNaughton said.
The event was conceived over the summer, McNaughton said and was originally scheduled for the same weekend as a home football game. She said the university planned to make the weekend a big event but had to pivot once the game was cancelled and safety guidelines were enforced.
Kim Grieve, Dean of Students, said the two most important days for her as an administrator are convocation and graduation. She said being able to have a celebration like this is important to families and students that have put lots of hard work into their education.
“We love to see them walk across the stage and remember when they were first here … and now they’re able to graduate, so it’s a great day,” Grieve said. “A lot of families really struggle to get students through a four-year degree, so it’s really something that everybody needs to celebrate toghether, because it’s an enormous milestone in somebody’s life.”
McNaughton said it’s unfortunate that last year’s seniors didn’t get a graduation to walk at, so the university is working to give them the best experience it can under the circumstances.
While not all of the spring graduates will be coming back for the ceremony, Grieve said, she is excited to see those that do, and said she believes they are prepared to face the world.
“Jobs are really tight, and our students will have critical thinking abilities, problem solving abilities, writing abilities and all of those things that a liberal arts education brings,” Grieve said. “I think that that will open doors for them as they go out and be a part of the workforce.”