When students from the classes of 2020 and 2021 prepared to graduate, they faced the reality of their ceremonies being virtual or modified. However, students now have the opportunity to graduate in person the way they originally anticipated.
USF recently decided to invite graduates from the classes of 2020 and 2021 to come back and attend in-person graduation ceremonies, according to a June 17 universitywide email from USF President Steven Currall.
The ceremonies for returning graduates are tentatively set for Aug. 21 at 6 p.m. and Aug. 22 at 9 a.m, 1:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the Yuengling Center, according to Currall. As opposed to the previous two-guest restriction, graduates will now be allowed to bring as many guests as they wish.
Administration taking action to host in-person commencement for past and current graduates has students feeling variations of disappointment and excitement. Last year, in-person graduation was never in question, leaving the previous graduates with only one option, a virtual graduation.
Spring 2021 public relations and advertising graduate Juliana Atwell was frustrated that the announcement stating students will be able to walk across the stage during summer graduation came only weeks after the modified spring 2021 graduation.
“It is appreciated that USF is giving students the opportunity to have the chance to walk, but I feel like the process could have just happened in spring a few weeks ago,” Atwell said.
Atwell, who is fully vaccinated, was surprised USF wasn’t more lenient with students who were vaccinated during spring graduation.
“I took the time to get vaccinated for both myself and peers, it would have been nice to walk across the stage at the set time I was supposed to,” said Atwell.
Jimmy Luu, who graduated in spring 2021 with a bachelor of science in business advertising, attended the modified in-person graduation at Tropicana Field and was grateful to have any ceremony at all.
“I was fortunate enough to have a modified in-person graduation with all the safety measures in place,” said Luu. “I was happy to have our names called and have the recognition we deserve even if we didn’t walk the stage as I would have hoped to when I first started college.”
Unlike some students, Luu wants to attend the in-person graduation ceremony in the summer as he hopes to experience a graduation that fully honors his efforts. However, after trying to register via the online survey, it said he was ineligible to sign up to attend.
“I think it’s great that USF is allowing those who graduated in 2020 and 2021 to have an in-person graduation now,” said Luu. “However, when I tried to fill out the survey and I put down that I attended the Tropicana graduation in May, it said I wasn’t allowed to attend the in-person graduation in August.”
Luu was hoping to invite his uncle and aunt, who have supported him throughout his four years at USF, along with his mom. Though, he’s still grateful for the graduation ceremony he did receive.
“When the form said I could not attend, I was disappointed but content with the graduation experience that I had,” said Luu. “If things happen to change in the future, I think this graduation should be open to those who attended Tropicana so we can also walk across the stage.”
Out-of-state students have also found themselves confused and disappointed by the announcement. Several students from different states moved home after graduating, leaving them with no option to come back and walk the stage.
Another spring 2021 graduate, public health major Marykate Jalo, found herself questioning if this opportunity even makes sense for out-of-state students.
“I am not sure why it is even offered, most graduates are not going to want to come back after flying thousands of miles to go home,” said Jalo.
“I live out of state and the chance to walk during graduation was taken from me and now just a few weeks later USF thinks that people will fly and spend money to come back and walk. I will not be in attendance.”
Some students haven’t left the state and continued their schooling in Florida, but they still don’t have the accommodations to return to USF.
Being out of state is just one of the other concerns previous graduates have. Alexis Reis, a spring 2021 graduate with a bachelor of science in health sciences, decided not to attend her commencement ceremony. Instead, she started a new chapter in her life by preparing for her graduate program.
“I decided not to go to my graduation because my master’s program at Nova Southeastern University for occupational therapy was starting soon, and I wanted to take the time to get settled into my new environment,” said Reis.
She said she wasn’t terribly disappointed by the modified graduation ceremony in the spring as she believed everyone’s health was the main priority.
“The online graduation ceremony personally did not bother me. I thought everyone’s safety was more important and that going virtual would be the safest option,” said Reis.
After learning she can attend an in-person commencement this summer, Reis said she appreciated the decision, however, she doesn’t think students will end up participating as their graduation time has passed and students no longer reside in or near Tampa.
Jordan St. Laurent graduated in spring 2020 with degrees in both criminology and psychology. He didn’t attend the virtual ceremony that was offered to him and his graduating class as he didn’t believe it would feel the same as the in-person graduation he wanted.
“It truthfully didn’t feel the same and I would not have wanted to participate in something that didn’t fill the void, even if it was a genuine effort,” said St. Laurent. “I felt it was all anticlimactic. I didn’t think the virtual one compensated, but I am aware there was not much else to be done.”
Similar to students like Reis, St. Laurent is not able to attend the graduation since he will not be in the Tampa area. Instead, he will be in New York attending his graduation for his master’s program for international criminal justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. However, he wishes he could go and celebrate his academic career at USF.
“I will not be attending the makeup graduation, but not because I don’t want to. I have personally made amendments with everything at USF and want to continue on with my life. I do, however, wish I could go,” said St. Laurent.
Keegan Myers, who graduated in spring 2021 with a bachelor of science in management, decided to immediately continue with her academic pursuits after she graduated.
“I’ve decided to go straight into getting my master of business administration and over the summer I took a job with a previous internship as a press release distributor,” said Myers. “I’ve also accepted a full-time position with a local nonprofit as an environmental educator.”
She attended the modified in-person graduation, but since she has taken steps forward in her academics, she said she doesn’t plan on attending the in-person ceremonies over the summer.
“I went to the modified in-person graduation because I honestly wanted to. Even though there was no walking, or receiving of physical degrees, I still enjoyed it,” said Myers. “However, since I’m moving directly into my next degree, I don’t really see a reason to attend the new ceremony in the summer.”
While the offer is kind, according to Reis, she doesn’t expect much enthusiasm about the makeup commencement from the graduated student body.
“It’s the thought that counts, but I generally don’t expect graduates to take up that offer,” said Reis.