Following two online commencements, Emporia State graduates will finally get to walk across the stage once again. Since March 2020, mass gatherings have been restricted by the Lyon County City Commissioners. Just recently though, this restriction has been lifted.
The Commencement Committee's top priorities were not only to allow students an in-person graduation, but also to ensure the safety and health of the graduates and their loved ones.
“We're trying really hard given the situation,” said Jerald Spotswood, Dean of the Graduate School. “To do what we need to do to keep them both safe, and to be responsible citizens, but at the same time mark this very important event in people's lives.”
To allow people to socially distance safely, commencement will be held in Welch Stadium and each graduating student is only allowed two guests.
“It is going to be necessary to limit the number of guests who attend the ceremony and that’s regrettable,” said David Cordle, Provost. “But, it's necessary because we tried to do some very careful arithmetics about the number of people who could be seated and still keep some distance. The way that arithmetic works out, we can have about two guests per graduate and we understand that’s a big limitation and I wish we didn’t have to do that, but it is necessary.”
The Commencement Committee relied heavily on student feedback to plan, focusing on a student survey sent to graduates after last year’s commencement.
“There was some negative feedback obviously of students saying, ‘If I don’t get an in-person graduation, I don't want a graduation at all,’ and that's fair,” said Amaya Oshel, vice president of Associated Student Government and senior sociology major. “You work really hard to have that accomplishment, and if you don't get to have it that's really devastating...A lot of students were like ‘If it's not socially distanced, I'm not going to be there…’ We want to make sure people can social distance and there's not a lot of at risk people attending graduation.”
Oshel is graduating this semester, making her participation in the process and her ability to speak on behalf of the student body even more personal.
“I really am glad at least two of my family members get to see me graduate and walk across the stage and I get to celebrate myself,” Oshel said. “Although the people that will be there for me are my supporters and have been my biggest fans this entire time, I am the one that went through college and I graduated and I did what I needed to do to accomplish this.”
Cordle said he believes commencement is not only a sign of growth for students graduating but also a foreshadowing of what is to come for ESU.
“I just think that finishing off this academic year with an in-person commencement is not only a good thing for the students who are graduating, but I think it’s a very hopeful sign of what the university can look forward to in the fall,” Cordle said. “We’re all hoping that we’ll be able to start the new academic year in a way that feels normal or very close to normal.”