Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, fall graduation will be held in person with 15 different commencement ceremonies.
The ceremonies will take place on Dec. 9, 10, 11, 17 and 18, with each day having three ceremonies; at 9 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. The ceremonies will be a blend of in-person and video elements, and will preserve student involvement. Associate Vice President of External Affairs Chad Wootton said the total number of graduates is estimated to be just under 5,100 for the College Station campus.
“The events are socially distanced,” Wootton said. “It will be somewhere [between] 325 [to] 340 degree candidates on the floor of Reed Arena [at each ceremony].”
Audience attendance at graduation will be limited to allow for proper social distancing. Due to the restricted number of patrons inside the venue, each graduate will be given six tickets that they can use for guests. Those in attendance must wear a face mask for the entirety of the ceremony.
“Seating areas for attendees will be clearly marked in order to maintain safe physical distancing. Guests may sit together in groups of no more than six,” a press release from the provost read. “Ushers will be available to assist with seating.”
There will be no procession of candidates as students will report to their assigned seat prior to the ceremony. After students walk the stage, they will exit Reed Arena with their guests to reduce the amount of people leaving at the conclusion of the ceremony. Students will receive their diploma tube on stage but will receive their diploma by mail at a later date.
“Everyone won’t sit there for the duration of the ceremony. Once their name is called they will walk the stage and they will be free to leave,” Wootton said. “Our idea [with guests leaving at the time of the graduate] we are thinning the departure grouping around exits rather than if we leave all at the same time.”
Degree candidates have a choice to walk this semester or wait until the spring for the make-up ceremony. This allows an alternative option for those that have health concerns or feel safer waiting. Wootton said the president and Office of the Provost felt as if they should make their best effort to have the ceremony.
“There is still a fondness for having the [in-person] ceremony as a cumulation of their studies, whether it be an understudies or graduate or doctoral or professional program, where their families can be a part of it,” Wootton said. “We are very hopeful and we think we have learned a lot about how to manage social gatherings and with this spread of social distanced size [ceremonies].”
Although this is not the graduation some were expecting, students like electrical engineering senior Braden Mondshine are grateful they still get to walk the stage amid the pandemic.
“After waiting four years, I never expected to graduate during a pandemic,” Mondshine said. “So much has changed during 2020 but I’m glad that I’m still able to walk the stage. I hope that we can get through this pandemic soon so others can have the graduation experience that they have been hoping for since freshman year.”
Though the ceremony may look a little different due to health and safety changes, Wootton said the Office of the Provost is doing everything it can to keep a traditional graduation ceremony.
“It’s going to be very different, [but] just like 2020, flexibility is the key,” Wootton said. “We will be working to have as many elements that are familiar to Aggie commencements, we have to do those in a different way as everything in 2020 to create a [safe] environment.”