Rather than being greeted by golden carnations handed out by ambassadors at the front steps of William Allen White Auditorium, walking in a single file line searching for family members in the noisy crowd and restlessly waiting in line to hand Jim Williams a sweaty name card before smiling for a picture with President Garrett.
Emporia State graduates of 2020 were welcomed to their commencement ceremony by a YouTube ad.
Because the administration could not give students a traditional graduation ceremony, they provided students the option to watch a virtual commencement. Although the ceremony currently has over 600 views and granted access to more students than ever before. NOt everyone who would have attended graduation chose to watch online.
“I didn't grind my way through, you know through four years, sleepless nights, stress, and all of that to be recognized virtually online. ...So because my parents couldn't physically attend the ceremony, there was really no point in me actually going to one,” said Marcus Pastran, graduate of Spring 2020.
To kick off the ceremony Shellaine Kiblinger spoke remotely on behalf of the Kansas Board of Regents, offering students encouraging words and commending them for graduating in such unique circumstances.
“You have graduated in the midst of extraordinary times to be sure. ... But, extraordinary times can inspire individuals to create a world tomorrow that is even better than the normal of yesterday,” said Kiblinger.
Although the ceremony was held virtually and recorded in Albert Taylor Hall, faculty and staff still filed in wearing their chords, gowns, and even masks.
“It would have been very easy to say we're not going to do anything and I think something positive that came from it was there wasn't one single person on that stage that would have been okay with it,” said Jim Williams, VP of Student Affairs. “What came from it was the absolute best thing we could, for our students.”
Even amid the disappointment students felt for not having a traditional ceremony, they still appreciated the lengths ESU went to providing them with a graduation.
“I understand that they tried to do something and they did it and that’s what’s important...But I have to applaud ESU for doing what they did, I mean safety first, they tried to do it in a way that everybody could see it. ...for the people like me that already headed back to our countries and wouldn’t have a chance to see it,” said Juan Stumpfs, May 2020 graduate.