Due to the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, Indiana State has announced to have a virtual commencement on May 16 to honor this year’s seniors.

An email sent to ISU seniors read: “Although at this time, we are not able to celebrate your ceremony in person, we would like to give you the opportunity to celebrate your accomplishments. The virtual ceremony will allow you to share this moment with your family, friends, and community. We encourage graduates to share pictures and screenshots of their at home celebrations, using the hashtag #state2020Grad for social media post.”

The email also said, “Each graduate will have the opportunity to be recognized with an official slide that can be customized with your photo and a personal message, and which can be downloaded and shared on social media.”

All seniors who had applied for graduation will be receiving a commencement package in the mail prior to the ceremony. This will include their diploma cover, tassel, honors stole and/or hood (where appropriate), a Sycamore leaf lapel pin from the Alumni Association, and a Commencement program.

This will not be a traditional commencement that most seniors look forward to at the end of their college years but is the best the university can do at this time to keep everyone safe.

Seniors also have the option to cross the stage in December with the fall graduates.

Chris Lopez, a communication major, said he was not going to attend the virtual ceremony because it didn’t feel right.

“I think the virtual ceremony isn't a good ‘backup plan’ for how the year ended. When they told us that commencement was canceled, it did not bother me until I told my mom. She was the one that was upset to hear that the ceremony was canceled because she wanted to hear her son's name called while I am walking across that stage. Seeing her upset made me upset at the commencement cancellation. However, we understood the circumstances,” said Lopez. 

A virtual commencement ceremony is not the norm so it makes it hard for people to imagine what it would be like.

 “I have no idea what to expect out of the virtual ceremony. If it is just a video of people saying names or one super long slideshow, I'd be disappointed,” said Lopez.

Shania Harrison, an optimistic senior, is trying to make the best out of what she can considering the circumstances. Harrison plans on attending the virtual ceremony in order to get some closure from this situation, but she doesn’t feel that the virtual ceremony could ever “replace” the real thing.

“I hope for the virtual ceremony to be as similar to the real experience as possible. I know it will never be to the capacity of an actual ceremony, but it is what we seniors have to hold onto. I will still have the opportunity to walk across my living room and graduate in front of the people who mean the most,” said Harrison.

For Harrison’s family, this will be a first.

“This is a big day for me. I am the first person in my family to graduate from college and I fully intend on celebrating that day. I plan to walk across the living room in my cap and gown with my First Generation stole, Welcome Team stole, Order of Omega cords, and Alpha Omicron Pi stole on,” Harrison said. “This was an earned experience and COVID-19 will not take it from the class of 2020. I may come back for the December graduation as well. I do not want to feel robbed of this experience throughout my entire life and regret not walking across that stage at some point. Sycamores will always come out on top.”

Every senior handles this uncertain time differently and does what helps them cope with this situation.

Senior Mara Johnson said she appreciates the efforts the university is putting in towards recognizing the seniors but can’t wrap her head around sitting and watching a virtual commencement.

“I don’t think a virtual ceremony is going to mean anything to me. I understand them trying to do anything they can and I know it will mean something to other people but to my family being there in person and watching me walk across that stage was a big milestone,” said Johnson.

Johnson said her graduation and having an in person commencement ceremony wasn’t just for her, it also represents a lot for her family.

“Originally I wasn’t going to go to commencement in December but my family begged me and I am planning to. It still is a fear for my family that they will not be able to watch me walk in person due to the lack of number of seats since technically there will be two graduating classes. Unless there were two different ceremonies,” said Johnson.

This is a challenging time for everyone especially for seniors who are unable to walk across the stage and share that memory with family and friends. Nothing can compare to the real thing but seniors are holding onto what they do have such as virtual commencement, jumping right into finding a job or attending commencement in December.

To the class of 2020, make the best out of what feels right for you to end your time at ISU and congratulations.