Graduation to be held in person

Truman State University is dividing its spring 2021 commencement into seven ceremonies across two days, which will allow guests to attend in-person in a limited capacity. 

The spring 2021 commencement ceremony plan was announced to students in a Truman Today email March 15. Three events will be held May 7 at 11 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. Four ceremonies will then be held May 8 at 9:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. All ceremonies will be held in Pershing Arena.

The 11 a.m. ceremony on May 7 will be for accounting, agricultural science, art, art history, biology and design majors. The 2:30 p.m. ceremony will be for biochemistry and molecular biology, business administration, chemistry, classics and communication majors. The 6 p.m. ceremony will be for exercise science, French, German, health science and history majors.

The 9:30 a.m. ceremony on May 8 will be for interdisciplinary studies, justice systems, liberal studies, linguistics, mathematics, modern language, music, nursing and philosophy and religion majors. The 1 p.m. ceremony will be for communication disorders, computer science, creative writing, economics and English majors. The 4 p.m. ceremony will be for physics, political science, political science and international relations, psychology, Russian, sociology/anthropology, Spanish, statistics and theatre majors. The 7:30 p.m. ceremony will be for all master degree students.

Students who wish to participate in the commencement ceremony must apply to graduate by April 1. Graduation candidates who do not want to participate in the ceremony must notify the Registrar’s Office via email by April 12.

Each student will be allowed to invite two guests to attend the ceremony in-person. Social distancing will be enforced for all students and guests. Everyone in attendance will also be required to wear a mask. All ceremonies will be livestreamed for viewing by those not in attendance. The delivery method for this live stream has yet to be announced.

“This commencement will be unlike any Truman has ever attempted, and it will require a lot of extra planning and preparation from University staff, faculty and administration,” the Truman Today announcement states. 

Registrar Nancy Asher said the decision to host seven ceremonies is number based. The commencement planning team determined how many students can fit on the Pershing Arena floor while maintaining social distancing. 

Asher said 140 to 150 students can safely fit, with seven ceremonies of 140 students getting to the estimated amount of graduates.

Asher said the planning team has not encountered too many challenges, but she expects getting enough staff for seven ceremonies to be a challenge.

Asher said she hopes students and their families will be satisfied with the new modified structure. She explained that the easiest solution for the ceremonies was to hold them with no guests, but they decided to work on a change because they knew students wanted their family there.

“We are doing it for [the students],” Asher said.

Janet Gooch, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, said a challenge of planning the seven ceremonies was figuring out the best timing. They knew it was not possible to do all seven ceremonies in one day, so the planning team had to decide which two days would be best. 

Janet Gooch, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, said a challenge of planning the seven ceremonies was figuring out the best timing. The planning team had to decide which two days would be best. Photo by Tim Barcus

“I do hope that families will see that we’ve gone above and beyond to try to accommodate two guests,” Gooch said.

Gooch said the ceremonies fit within Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, so she feels comfortable with the ceremonies because they fit within the guidelines.

The CDC website outlines risk factors and recommendations to follow for planning large events. The risk factors include the amount of COVID-19 cases in the community, the setting and length of the event, the number of people in attendance and how people behave during the event.

Safety recommendations include enforcing social distancing, requiring the usage of masks, having adequate hygiene supplies and making sure the event area remains clean.

“That doesn’t mean it alleviates all concern,” Gooch said. “I mean anytime you have a larger gathering I guess you increase the opportunity for there to be a spread of COVID, but what we are doing falls within CDC guidelines so for that reason I feel like it’s defensible.” 

Gooch said feedback for the winter commencement ceremony was positive. That ceremony only allowed students to attend with no guests. Gooch said she thinks each ceremony keeps getting better as guests are now allowed to attend.

Emma Fellows, senior agricultural science student, thinks that it is great that guests can come as long as social distancing and mask wearing are enforced. 

Fellows said she felt bad for those who would want to bring more than two guests, such as step-parents. She said she feels that having guests in any capacity brings about a sense of normalcy.

Fellows said having seven smaller ceremonies is a little odd, but she prefers a short graduation due to COVID-19. 

“I think this is the best way to handle the situation, and I appreciate that they are trying,” Fellows said. 

Cj Richards, senior history major, is also happy that guests can attend the ceremonies. Even with only two guests for each student allowed, he is happy that his parents can come watch his ceremony. 

Richards is fine with the seven ceremony structure, although he would like to be in the same ceremony as his friends to see them graduate.

“I’m honestly just happy we have some progress back to the world we lived in before COVID-19,” Richards said.