Fall and Spring Graduates Honored in Virtual Graduation
By Jaylin Johnson, Correspondent
Many graduation ceremonies this year have had to be altered to accommodate COVID-19, and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) graduations have been no different. The ERAU graduates of the spring semester of 2020 had their commencement ceremony pushed back with the promise of walking in December. The administration is now doing a virtual ceremony for both the graduates of the spring and fall semesters. Lori Kennedy, the Campus Events Manager, was a big part of planning the graduation festivities for this year. “As there can be no large, in-person gatherings, we are doing a Virtual Graduation ceremony for all 2020 graduates. We are using the campus as the ‘stage’ to film the various speeches at scenic locations.”
There have been smaller gatherings and events to help the graduates celebrate their accomplishments at ERAU leading up to the full, virtual ceremony. A graduation festival for the fall graduates was held on Nov. 20 to allow graduates the chance to collect their graduation items. Graduates picked up cords, awards, alumni gifts, and diploma covers in-person at assigned times from faculty members. “As the students departed, they received a decorative 2020 cookie and a bottle of Martinelli’s,” said Kennedy. The graduates had photos taken by Grad Images on a stage with their college gonfalon. The COVID-19 safety procedures of the semester were, of course, followed during these festivities.
A virtual graduation ceremony will also be held for all the 2020 graduates. The event is using the campus as a “stage” of sorts: various speeches are being filmed around the campus at scenic locations for the virtual ceremony. Each graduate will have a slide that they can personalize with their photo and a quote or a thank you message. The links for each of the Spring/Summer and Fall ceremonies will be sent to the graduates and go live when the ceremony begins on Dec. 12 at 9 a.m. “Students are encouraged to visit the Virtual Commencement Celebration website [https://prescott.erau.edu/virtual-celebration] to find backdrops for photos and tips on how to celebrate their Virtual Graduation with family and friends,” advises Kennedy. This is just one example of the ERAU staff trying to give the graduates a memorable graduation even in a pandemic.
The graduates are understandably disappointed to be unable to have a traditional ceremony this year. “It is a huge disappointment to our faculty and staff, as well, as they have witnessed, supported and encouraged these students throughout their time at Embry-Riddle and want nothing more than to celebrate their success,” reflects Kennedy. This year has presented many challenges for the college campus. However, the faculty and staff care deeply about giving every student and graduate the chance to have a memorable experience with this college. Kennedy says,”It is our hope that through the small things we have been able to do to celebrate our graduates, they feel honored and have a sense of how incredibly proud we are of each and every one of them.”