With COVID-19 halting traditional graduation plans, Macalester announced a modified, two-part celebration to culminate the 2020-21 academic year. The ceremony will take place in-person and be broadcast over Zoom and Facebook on May 15.
In an email on Tuesday, March 23, Provost Karine Moe updated the college’s graduation ceremony plans. Previously, students were not permitted any guests and would walk, without an audience, to receive their diploma. With loosened state-wide restrictions surrounding outdoor gatherings, graduates are now permitted two guests to attend the event in person.
“Based on the Governor’s March 15 update on gatherings, we began to quickly explore what was possible,” Director of Special Events Kate Frampton wrote in an email to The Mac Weekly. “We are excited to be able to expand the Grad Walks to include 2 guests per grad!”
Instead of all walking at once, the graduating class will choose one of two grad walks to attend, with the first walking at 9:30a.m., and the second walking at 4p.m. Splitting the class will allow for a larger audience of friends and family members while adhering to Minnesota state guidelines for outdoor events.
Grad walks will be held at the Macalester stadium and will be outdoors on the field. Both grad walks will have assigned seating and ticketing. Macalester will require all attendees to wear masks and follow distancing protocols.
The ceremony will still be broadcast via Zoom and Facebook for those unable to attend in person. Like last year, there will also be a slideshow presentation featuring all graduating seniors live streamed between the two walks. Both are subject to change based on CDC guidelines.
Political Science and International Studies major Amanda Ortiz ’21 is grateful for the opportunity to receive her degree with her friends and now family present. Ortiz noted that she hadn’t realized how close graduation was until she was reunited with her family at Christmas.
“Ever since the pandemic, everything has felt like it’s been on pause,” Ortiz wrote in an email to The Mac Weekly. “That build-up of ‘lasts’ that every senior told me about, well a lot of them happened a year or two early.”
Ortiz is looking forward to the graduation ceremonies in light of the recent announcement.
“The ability for students to invite two guests to graduation allows other students who are also experiencing this for their families to share such a precious moment with them,” Ortiz wrote.
In planning for this year’s graduation, Macalester asked seniors to complete a survey to share what they hoped to see. 342 seniors responded, representing 70% of the graduating class as well as 90% of seniors living on or near campus.
A majority of respondents said that walking to the stage, the cap and gown uniform and the traditional recognition of a name reading were “very important” for their graduation. 84% of the voting seniors wanted the ceremony to be synchronous, and 79% voted for an in-person ceremony at a later date.
Theater and Dance, Music double major Elinor Jones ’21 said that graduation will be difficult without the usual celebrations afterwards. She’s also interested in individual department events for seniors.
“My house will put graduation on the TV and try to have a good time,” Jones said. “I’m anxious to see what they have planned for senior week.”
If not for the pandemic, Jones would have finished her study abroad, been in as many as four THDA productions and had more professional performing arts opportunities in Minneapolis. Now, Jones will have a live streamed vocal recital and participate in an outside in-person theater production to close her senior year.
In an email to The Mac Weekly, Jones wrote that both her parents will be coming to the grad walk event as her two ticketed guests.
Media and Cultural Studies major Lidija Namike ‘21 noted in an email to The Mac Weekly that many seniors were called back from study abroad in their junior year, making the transition to quarantine more severe than other classes.
“Coming back for the 2020-2021 school year proved to be anything but a return to normal.” Namike wrote. “On the other hand, being able to lay in bed while listening to lectures has been a life-changing experience.”
The Commencement website mentioned the possibility of holding a larger, in-person graduation commencement in Spring 2022 for the graduating classes of 2020, 2021 and 2022.
“We know that gathering in-person for our traditional Commencement was everyone’s hope,” the Commencement website reads. “But we simply cannot in spring of 2021. Our plan is to invite the Classes of 2020 and 2021 back to campus in the spring of 2022 to participate in a belated Commencement celebration.”