Lisa Keller is a fall 2020 New Mexico State University graduate who earned Bachelor of Science from the Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management program. | Photo courtesy NMSU
New Mexico State University will recognize the achievements of more than 1,500 students who completed degree requirements over the summer and fall semesters in a virtual commencement ceremony set for Saturday, December 12.
A total of 1,325 students are expected to earn bachelor’s or advanced degrees this week as part of the fall 2020 class. A group of 379 students also earned degrees over the summer.
Fall commencement will mark the end of a year unlike any other in NMSU history, one in which students and faculty faced unprecedented challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic and adapted to a new educational environment.
Due to public health restrictions related to the pandemic, a traditional in-person commencement ceremony will not take place this week. Instead, NMSU has produced an all-virtual ceremony that will air starting at 10 a.m. across multiple online platforms, including Facebook, YouTube and Panopto. KRWG Public Media also will broadcast the ceremony on TV and via this link.
Similar to the university’s spring 2020 commencement in May, the fall ceremony will feature remarks from NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu, NMSU President John Floros and Leslie Cervantes, associate vice president for Alumni, Board and Donor Relations, as well as a performance by the Pride of New Mexico Marching Band.
NMSU officials will announce the names of 1,544 graduates on Saturday, said Gabrielle Martinez, graduation and curriculum data specialist, who helped coordinate the ceremony. Carrie Hamblen – an NMSU alumna, former KRWG radio host and, now, New Mexico senator-elect – will read the names of each graduate. Nearly 700 students submitted their photo, video or quote, which will be displayed on screen as Hamblen reads their name, Martinez said.
“I share the disappointment that we’re unable to celebrate all together with the chaos that we usually have at the Pan American Center,” she added. “But I do hope that this is a special way to recognize their achievements for all the years. I hope students celebrate their accomplishments by sharing the stream of the ceremony, creating online watch parties with family and friends, and posting photos on social media using the hashtag #nmsugrad.”
Jaime Bankston, who earned a Bachelor of Science in nursing, said she plans to watch the ceremony from Colorado, where she relocated in October while awaiting a heart transplant for her son.
“This is my second degree and second career pathway for me. I have five children, and the ceremony was more for my children, to show them that success is possible – no matter what your obstacles are,” Bankston said. “But given the current state of things, and being in Colorado, the virtual ceremony actually makes life a little easier for me.”
Like Bankston, Martinez sees an upside to virtual commencements – which Martinez believes will help inspire greater participation from students.
“We have 60 percent of students who attend the in-person ceremony, but we need to capture all students,” she said. “With a virtual or hybrid ceremony, we can really tap into our NMSU online students who can’t travel. It’s going to be more inclusive this semester and going forward. We’ll have the opportunity for every student to participate, not just those that can actually physically be here in Las Cruces.”
Bankston, who was part of an accelerated nursing program called BSN Roadrunner for second-degree seeking students, was able to complete her degree remotely while living in Colorado. She hopes to return to Las Cruces when her son is healthy and able to travel.
“I think I’d like to work in critical care,” she said. “I enjoyed my rotation in ICU, and I liked that intense focus on a patient and getting them through those more critical times.”
Lisa Keller said she is saddened her family and children will not get to see her walk across the stage at the Pan American Center to receive her Bachelor of Science from the Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management program. But Keller, a self-described “seasoned student” who decided to complete her undergraduate studies in 2018, plans to celebrate her achievement at home.
“It was a big disappointment once we got the final word that we were having a virtual graduation,” Keller said. “For myself, this was something I had been looking forward to after so many years of being out of school, raising kids and finally having that chance to come back and finish my degree,” Keller said. “I know it’s just a walk across the stage, but for somebody my age, it was huge.”
Keller said she plans to watch the ceremony on TV with her husband and four children, including three who also attend NMSU. She said she is eager to advance her career in hotel operations after graduation.
“I’m the bistro manager at the Courtyard by Marriott in Las Cruces at the moment,” she said, “but I’m hoping to be able to use what I’ve learned from my 20-plus years in customer service and what I’ve learned in school to help me on my path to becoming a general manager.”
For more information about the commencement ceremony, click here.
Author: Carlos Andres Lopez – NMSU