Spring commencement moves in-person

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Toni Fortmann

The UNI-Dome is set to be the location of three separate in-person commencement ceremonies this spring.

CAROLINE CHRISTENSEN

In an announcement that brought relief to many in the graduating class, UNI has reversed its decision to hold an all-virtual spring commencement. On Monday, March 1, the university announced that it will now be hosting a limited in-person commencement ceremony May 7 and 8 in the UNI-Dome.

UNI public relations manager Steve Schmadeke said that the lowering COVID-19 case numbers in the state and region were one factor that led the university to reconsider an in-person commencement. However, there is still a chance current commencement plans could change due to the nature of the pandemic and changing guidelines.

Senior digital communications major Mili Saliu, creator of the petition that received over 2,000 signatures urging the university to reconsider an in-person ceremony, was excited to hear the university was reversing its initial decision.

I was so flabbergasted,” Saliu said. “When I got the email saying commencement was going to be held in the Dome and in three separate ceremonies, as I said in my letter, I was just shocked. I was like, ‘wow; I can’t believe they are actually going to hold it.’”

The announcement sent out by the university outlined how the ceremony would be conducted in accordance with COVID-19 safety restrictions. Three separate ceremonies are to be held for the respective bachelor’s and master’s candidates, organized by college. The ceremonies will be held in the UNI-Dome, and a virtual commencement will also take place that weekend. Graduates can choose to participate in both in-person and virtual ceremonies.

The modified ceremony will announce the names of the graduates as they cross the stage. Professional photography will be available, and social distancing and masks will be required for all in attendance.

“These modified commencement events are being designed to safely celebrate the accomplishments of our graduates and protect the health of our campus community,” the university’s statement read. “It’s important to note that while we are excited to recognize our graduates and honor their hard work, we will continue to monitor public health information and guidelines to ensure this event can occur safely.”

Graduates will be permitted to invite a limited number of guests, and the ceremony will be livestreamed for those who cannot attend. The statement also noted that because of the limited number of people that can be hosted in the UNI-Dome, only May 2021 graduates will be able to attend. May and December 2020 graduates will be honored at a later date. Doctoral graduates will also be recognized in a separate ceremony.

The virtual commencement will present videos from people who would normally speak during commencement. These include President Nook, Provost Wohlpart, Northern Iowa Student Government, UNI Alumni Association and three student speakers chosen by their colleges.

Iowa’s other two Regents universities also announced plans on Monday for modified in-person commencement events.

The University of Iowa, after previously indicating that commencement would be virtual, released a statement that administration is “working to develop an in-person commencement option,” with more details to be released by March 19.

Iowa State University plans to hold modified events at Jack Trice Stadium, recognizing undergraduates on May 8 and master’s graduates on May 7. The statement from President Wendy Wintersteen noted that the university does not anticipate a need to limit attendance “due to the large capacity and outdoor setting of the stadium,” although all graduates and guests must practice social distancing and wear face coverings.

No matter the modifications, Saliu, as well as many others in the UNI graduating class, are excited to have the opportunity to walk across the stage at commencement.

“It’s not just graduation; it’s so much more than that,” Saliu said.

Schmadeke is also pleased the university can host an in-person commencement.

“We’re thrilled to be able to provide these options for our students to celebrate their achievements,” Schmadeke said.

For more information regarding spring commencement and how to apply for graduation, visit registrar.uni.edu/graduation-and-commencement/spring.