Spring 2020 graduates still await information about May commencement; alumna shares virtual experience

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Courtesy of Marissa Sanchez

Graduates from the class of 2020 are the first class in recent history to graduate during a pandemic. Gonzales, among many others, graduated virtually at St. Edward’s due to COVID-19.

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has hit the world with many surprises, changes of plans and losses. Sacrifices have been made on many fronts, and this has been no different at St. Edward’s, with budget cuts due to the pandemic cutting everything from staff members to an entire school.

Another loss has been normal experiences students used to enjoy. From simple ones like passing classmates on campus to probably the most important milestone in a student’s career: a graduation ceremony.

St. Edwards’ usual in-person graduation ceremony was cancelled last May due to COVID-19 restrictions, with a virtual ceremony taking its place. Of course, this was a let down for many. According to St. Edward’s alumnus ‘20, Sarah Gonzales, “Graduation day was rough.”

“I think for the circumstance, it was what it was. You could only do so much within such a short time frame while following proper precautions. It was bittersweet, more bitter than sweet, because I just remember feeling so sad that I couldn’t walk [the] stage with my friends who I’d known for the past four years,” Gonzales says.

The school also said they would reschedule Spring 2020 graduation to December 2020. This was announced in an  email from Vice President of Student Affairs Lisa Kirkpatrick on April 30, saying that “planning is underway to host an in-person December commencement on campus.”

Despite this, Gonzales said she has not received any communication from the school on plans for a rescheduled in-person ceremony yet.

“No, I haven’t [been notified of these plans], and at this point, I don’t expect to. I’m assuming that our class will walk with 2021. A lot of things are just so up-in-the-air right now that I tried not to hope on a December graduation, so I’ve made peace with it,” Gonzales says.

St. Edward’s communications manager Sandra Zaragoza says the school currently does not have an update for plans of an in-person graduation ceremony for the class of 2020.

Since Kirkpatrick’s email on rescheduling the ceremony, COVID-19 cases have spiked and hospitalizations are at their highest. Especially here in Texas, the virus continues to take countless lives.

As for the class of 2021, Zaragoza says the administration is “thinking ahead toward graduation and what it might look like in spring, [but is] still in early planning stages” of the graduation ceremony for the class of 2021.

“As we did last year, we plan to make decisions related to graduation based on the guidance and information we receive from the city of Austin, the Austin Health Department, and our own health and safety planning experts,” Zaragoza says. “Once we are further along, we hope to share our plans with you and our community. For now, we are trying to remain flexible as we continue to monitor the pandemic and prioritize everyone’s health and safety.”

According to the University of Texas website, reservations at the AT&T Hotel and Conference Center are open for UT’s Spring 2021 graduation ceremony on May 22, 2021. The Texas State University website outlines Spring 2021 commencement dates but does not indicate whether those will be online or in-person.

Gonzales ends with advice to the class of 2021, the second class in recent history that is set to graduate college during a global pandemic. 

“It isn’t going to be easy, but if any class can do it, it’s you all. I know that this year hasn’t been easy for returning SEU students and campus is so different now, but I hope this graduating class can still find ways to make the most of this not-so-great situation.”