Charlie’s Bookstore hosted its first annual Graduation Fair March 23-24 in the MUC. The event prepared USD students for graduation with representatives from the registrar’s office, USD Alumni Association, graduate school, career services and Balfour, the graduation regalia partners of USD.
Brittany Sage, manager of retail operations at Charlie’s, said in an email interview with The Volante that organizers adapted the event for COVID-19 by rearranging the store with socially distanced tables and hand sanitizer.
Sage said since there was no spring graduation ceremony last year, this will be the first commencement using the rental regalia, which Sage said is more environmentally friendly and saves students an average of $50.
“The rental gowns are finer quality,” Sage said. “Students renting their gowns get to keep everything except their gown.”
Alissa Matt, associate director of alumni engagement at the USD Foundation Alumni Association, said the group’s presence at the fair was designed to help students understand what engagement with the university post-graduation looks like.
“For recent graduates, a lot of that is sort of, you know, what young alumni recognition opportunities are there, what career and professional development support services can we offer, how can we help Coyotes connect with other alumni in whatever community they’re landing in?” Matt said.
Matt said because young alumni tend to move around a lot post-graduation and change mailing addresses, it’s important for the Alumni Association to know where to reach students after graduation. The association asked students to give email addresses they could be reached at.
“Young alumni are incredibly transient,” Matt said. “We have our contact information forms that we are asking seniors to complete.”
The first day of the Graduation Fair was rainy, and Matt said that contributed to lower-than-expected turnout, but the location being central on campus meant it was easier for students to find.
“The first day there, the weather wasn’t great,” Matt said. “But again, you’ve got to start somewhere. And I really do applaud the people who started to coordinate this because I suspect it’s something that will only be able to grow in terms of participation in the years to come.
Sage said another challenge with attendance is that many seniors are not living on campus, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Seniors wouldn’t be passing through the MUC regularly, and may not even be in Vermillion. Sage said the bad weather was the biggest factor impacting turnout.
Sage said the group promoted the event with signage on campus, as well as with Facebook and Instagram posts, emails to spring graduates and dressing up mannequins in the store in graduation regalia.
Matt said the event is part of efforts to make students feel they will always have a home at USD.
“Students, especially students right now have weathered some incredible storms, and, you know, come May, the graduating class, their journey as students will end but their time as alums will begin,” Matt said. “Once a Coyote, always a Coyote.”
Sage said Charlie’s is looking forward to continuing to host the event in years to come.