New Mexico State University’s spring commencement is going to look a little different this year. Instead of graduates hearing their name being called, walking across the stage at the Pan American Center in their caps and gowns to accept their degrees and celebrating with endless pictures with their friends and families, they will be walking across their living room and celebrating with friends and family over video calls.
Although the ceremony will be in a different location because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the accomplishments of the graduates are still something to celebrate.
“I would encourage each of the graduates to celebrate on what was supposed to be graduation day with those that they are with or do something that day that makes them happy,” said Lanie O’Hea, who will take part in the virtual commencement. “Spend the day not worrying about what the future holds, but reflecting on the hard work, dedication and perseverance that brought them to this moment and know that it is those same qualities that will support and drive them upwards into the unknown future.”
The virtual commencement ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. on May 16, 2020, and will feature graduates from all levels. Professional readers will virtually read the names of the 726 graduates who RSVP’d and the ceremony will feature speeches from NMSU’s president, chancellor, and Alumni Association, and a quarantine rendition of the Aggie Fight song from the NMSU Pride Band.
Gabrielle Martinez, NMSU’s graduation and curriculum data specialist, said the planning for the 2020 commencement ceremony starts the minute the 2019 ceremonies end and that hundreds of staff, students and faculty volunteers look forward to seeing the graduates on this significant day.
“In these uncertain times, with many events unable to continue as planned, deep down I knew we had to find a way to honor this day and our graduates’ many accomplishments,” Martinez said. “Each day and each semester that goes by, I know students put in a lot of time studying and engaging with the campus community in order to graduate.
“I love to see the culmination of their hard work at commencement with all our proud Aggie friends and family,” she added. “While the energy we feel at commencement cannot be replicated, I hope that graduates will continue to share their smiles, stories and successes online this year.”
O’Hea ,who will be receiving her master’s degree in communication studies, said it was very easy to feel sad about missing the opportunity to walk the stage for her master’s degree.
“Even though my graduate degree has only taken me a year and a half, it has been by far more work, effort and tears that have been put into it than my undergrad degree,” she said. “I was lucky enough to have parents who pushed me to walk the stage for my undergraduate, but I did that for them. The commencement this spring was going to be for me. That’s what makes this hard for me.”
Regan Nentwhich, who will be receiving her bachelor’s degree in animal science with minors in chemistry and business administration, said she was excited to celebrate this accomplishment with her family and show them around Las Cruces, but wouldn’t want to put her family at risk with the virus.
“I have no animosity towards the situation and I remain hopeful that I can walk in December with some of my other friends and celebrate with them,” Nentwhich said. “But it is in the best interest of everyone to remain home and have a virtual graduation. I definitely wouldn’t want my grandmother to be put at risk and attend just to see me walk across the stage.”
O’Hea said she feels selfish for being upset because the world is going through much greater things than walking across a stage, but she tries to focus on the positive she sees in the community.
“What’s keeping me positive is that our leaders in our community are doing everything they can to keep us safe. I have hope in the future because of them,” O’Hea said. “Less people are being affected because of this decision by our leaders and I appreciate that. Because at the end of the day, I care more about the world’s health than walking across a stage.”
Renay Scott, vice president of student success, said she understands that COVID-19 has impacted traditional celebrations for this important milestone.
“NMSU wanted to make a virtual commencement available as one way to celebrate until December, when we invite students back to celebrate during a traditional celebration,” Scott said. “The lack of a traditional commencement does not nullify the importance of the amazing accomplishment that each of our graduates has achieved.”
Nentwhich didn’t end up getting her cap and gown, but she plans to make it work the day of the ceremony.
“I’m going to create a makeshift cap and gown and have a virtual ceremony with family and friends to celebrate. I will then probably order take out and have some wine!” Nentwhich said.
O’Hea said she will also be celebrating that day with her husband and puppy, and making thank-you videos for the special people in her life.
“I am going to get ready, put on a dress and drape myself in my regalia. Graduation was going to be a time when I was going to get to be with my family and thank them for everything they’ve done for me and their support. So, in my regalia, I am going to film a special video for each family member and my colleagues, who I could not have done this without, and send it to them!”
The ceremony will be live streamed and available on NMSU Facebook, Youtube at NMSU YouTube and on NMSU Panopto. KRWG-Channel 22 will be also be airing the ceremony for those graduates and their supporters.
Graduates are asked to join in the celebration in real time on social media with the hashtag #NMSUGrad.
For more information, click here.
Author: Melissa R. Rutter – NMSU
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