In-person ceremony option announced for SEU graduates, Commencement Committee updates plans for 2020 graduates


Gracie Watt/ Hilltop Views

SEU 2021 graduates will have the option to participate in a socially-distanced, in-person graduation ceremony. Students will get to complete the Legacy Walk, leaving through the iconic Red Doors they began school in.

On March 11, an update about the Spring 2021 Commencement ceremony was posted on the St. Edward’s website. In this update, the university released their plans to have a virtual ceremony and an optional, in-person ceremony for the class of 2021 from May 10 through May 12. There will also be an optional in-person ceremony for the class of 2020 from May 17 through May 19, who, due to COVID-19, did not have a formal commencement last May.

Like the class of 2020, the class of 2021 will have a virtual commencement ceremony as well, which will be available to view on May 8. The in-person ceremony will give graduates the chance to walk the stage and participate in an abbreviated Legacy Walk, a St. Edward’s tradition that allows students to mark their time entering and leaving the Hilltop through the red doors.

For the in-person experience, graduates and their guests will arrive to campus at their assigned date and time, spread out among multiple days. They will be expected to follow COVID-19 protocols by wearing face coverings and maintaining physical distance between other groups.

Senior communications major Victoria Hoang says that having an in-person graduation ceremony would give her “a great sense of closure.”

“Since the pandemic hit last March and I began to realize that I would be finishing my degree online, in my bedroom, I have been feeling a lack of closure. We never really got to say goodbye, or have any of those “last” moments,” Hoang said. “Even today, less than two months before graduation, it still hasn’t hit me that I will be graduating and leaving St. Edward’s. Nothing has felt real! So being able to physically be on campus to walk across the stage, in a cap and gown, and to walk out of the Red Doors in the Legacy Walk will provide me with the closure I’ve been seeking.”

The Commencement Committee, a committee that consists of student/alumni representatives, St. Edward’s Provost Andrew Prall and other St. Edward’s staff members ultimately made this decision to have in-person ceremonies. The committee began meeting in January, and their planning of graduation festivities has been in progress since then.

Like St. Edward’s, The University of Texas at Austin and Texas State both plan to have in-person commencement ceremonies for the class of 2021. These ceremonies are set to be held indoors. According to St. Edward’s provost Andrew Prall, the Commencement Committee is planning to use Jones Auditorium, the RAC and the Alumni Gym as venues for commencement. Graduates will be broken up into smaller groups and guided to one of these three venues to walk the stage to ensure that physical distancing is prioritized.

Graduates will be able to invite up to four guests to accompany them during graduation festivities. According to Prall, this decision was made when consulting the university’s medical team.

Per our medical team’s guidance, four guests per graduate allows the university to balance the risks to public health while also acknowledging the importance of having family members present for this special moment,” Prall said.

The St. Edward’s update on commencement is known to have been on the university website as early as March 11. The university then sent the update directly to students’ emails on March 12. Prall said that the communication was meant to be made public both through email and the website concurrently. He added that “we are doing our best to provide students timely information and communicate that information as directly as possible through a variety of different channels.”

Hoang said that this delay in communication was frustrating.

“It was frustrating that I found out this really important announcement through screenshots on Twitter. As I mentioned before, graduation has been something that has really been weighing on a lot of our minds. While I’m not sure how long the announcement was up on the website before Dr. Prall sent out the email, but you would just think that they would take the time to let us know first, since we are the ones directly affected by this decision,” she said.

Ultimately, Hoang is happy about the university’s decision to have in-person ceremonies.

“I think a lot of the class of 2021 has been feeling extremely unmotivated since we’ve had to spend our last year at St. Edward’s pretty much remotely, and the thought of a virtual commencement wasn’t exactly ideal, nor something to look forward to. So seeing a “real” graduation at the finish line of this semester is definitely motivation to get through it,” Hoang said. “I’m also so happy that the class of 2020 will have an opportunity to have their graduation as well.”

Those who are set to graduate in Spring 2021 will need to fill out a Graduation/Diploma Verification Form by Friday, April 2. The virtual commencement for the class of 2021 will go live on May 8, and the in-person graduation festivities will take place May 10-12.

Though students were recently made aware of plans to have graduation in-person, there is still time for graduates to order their caps and gowns. Students can do this during GradFest, which will be in-person and on campus on March 24, and virtual on March 25. Students can also purchase their caps and gowns at the campus bookstore.

According to St. Edward’s Communications Manager Sandra Zaragoza, students and families can expect to receive a more detailed email about the graduation festivities on March 17.


Disclaimer: Christine Sanchez is a member of the class of 2021.