A graduation like no other: Spring graduates virtually celebrate milestone

The university will start streaming the virtual commencement across all three campuses Saturday at 10 a.m. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

In the middle of a worldwide pandemic, spring graduates will have a graduation ceremony like no other.

Instead of walking down the Yuengling Center aisle dressed in green regalia, spring graduates will have to watch their commencement ceremony online in the comfort of their homes starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

The university will stream commencement ceremonies for each campus — Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee — at the same time. Similar to an in-person commencement, the livestream will last approximately 90 minutes and will be available for viewing once the ceremony is over.

More than 7,000 degrees will be awarded to students across all three campuses, with approximately 6,617 from Tampa, 544 from St. Pete and 280 from Sarasota-Manatee. 

The ceremonies, however, will not be live. They were previously recorded in April, according to university spokesperson Adam Freeman. 

While the ceremonies will be delivered in an unusual method, this year’s graduation routine will stay the same compared to previous years.  

For the Tampa campus, the ceremony will kick off with remarks from faculty and speeches by USF President Steven Currall as well as Provost Ralph Wilcox and Student Body President Britney Deas. During the ceremony, the outstanding graduate award winners and King O’Neal 4.0 GPA scholars will be recognized.

For the St. Pete and Sarasota-Manatee campuses, the ceremonies will include their respective regional chancellors,  Martin Tadlock and Karen Holbrook, and respective campus student government presidents — Jazzy Duarte and Isabelle Starner. 

The ceremony will close with a special performance of the alma mater and the presentation of graduates. 

Instead of walking down the aisle or having their names read out loud, the names of each graduate will scroll across the screen throughout the ceremony.  

The names of graduates will be listed by degree type — doctoral, master’s and bachelor’s — separated by college while listed in alphabetical order. Within each college, the degree programs and students’ names will be displayed in alphabetical order as well.

While the university will be combining all college graduations into one, some students were hoping to have a ceremony specific to their degree.

“I understand that there’s a reason why the ceremony is online but it would’ve been nice if the USF administration had decided on each college having their graduation,” said Musaab Tariq, who will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in health sciences. “I will be watching live and hope to hear some keynote speakers. Personally, I am a fan of nice speeches but it can be hard to listen to them at home with distractions around me.”

Due to space limitations in the Yuengling Center, USF’s original spring commencement schedule had eight separate ceremonies for the Tampa campus, according to Freeman. By having virtual commencement, Freeman said having no limitations on occupancy will allow the university to have one ceremony per campus instead.

For some students, like first-generation college graduate Brandon Wolfram, a virtual commencement doesn’t live up to the grand commemoration students were expecting.

“I know that this isn’t USF’s fault but it’s just unfortunate circumstances for us all,” Wolfram said. “I don’t think I will watch the virtual commencement because like I said the charm of everything is lost. It’s nice that they attempt to accommodate the current situation.”

The same scenario applies to biomedical sciences senior and first-generation graduate Faith Culver. Despite the situation, Culver said the virtual ceremony is a better idea amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Having a virtual ceremony is essentially a good idea because there aren’t many other options, but I’m still unsure of whether I’ll be attending simply because I might start crying when my name appears,” Culver said. “I just hope the virtual ceremony makes everyone feel special just as if they were there in person.”

While the virtual commencement might not be the best option for some students, spring graduates will also have the chance to participate in an in-person commencement tentatively planned for Aug. 6-9.

“At the end of the day, what I will miss most about not having an in-person ceremony is not being able to graduate with my friends that are by my side and to be wearing my cap and gown with others taking pictures afterward,” Tariq said.