SNU: 2020 commencement will be virtual


(Above) 2018 graduation ceremony at SNU. While graduation will be virtual this year, 2020 graduates are also welcome to walk in the 2021 ceremony next May.

Gabby Dodd, Managing Editor

Sierra Nevada University Interim President Ed Zschau announced in emails to seniors on April 3 that the 2020 commencement will be held virtually due to COVID-19 on May 16 at 10  a.m.

While graduation will be virtual, 2020 graduates are also invited to walk in the 2021 ceremony next May, according to SNU provost Shannon Beets.

The announcement came after other universities around the country began canceling in-person graduation ceremonies because of the pandemic.

Many schools around the country have opted to go virtual. Some sent out student input surveys or faced backlash from students after announcing virtual ceremonies which prompted some schools to plan to hold graduation in person either over the summer or in the fall.

Originally reported by News4, at the University of Nevada Reno, more than 15,000 students signed a petition against virtual graduation. UNR is still deciding whether or not to continue with virtual graduation or push an in-person ceremony to a later date.

“Students are disappointed and that’s completely understandable,” Beets said. “I don’t think anyone wishes it were this way.”

Beets explained that SNU did not send out a survey to students because the national crisis is too unpredictable and explains that students have been “pretty understanding” about the situation.

“We never do a survey when we can’t actually take your feedback,” Beets said. “So we just decided to make the decision that we have to make and then to do the best we can to try and have you physically with us the next time we have a commencement.”

While there might be things that will change with virtual graduation because the committee is still in the planning process, the current idea is to create a multi-platform broadcast.

Addresses and speakers will be recorded and then on the day of commencement, a broadcast will go live that will be available on platforms such as Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook.

“I’ve had some other ideas about maybe scheduling some Zoom rooms, so people could come and go,” SNU marketing director Daniel Kelly said. “The basic idea though is to make it as interactive as possible and as close to the real experience as possible while still having to do a lot of pre-recording.”

The plan is to also have parts of commencement on the SNU website to give people the ability to re-watch speeches afterward.

Jeremy Jones, professional snowboarder and founder of the non-profit Protect Our Winters, will still be giving his commencement speech to the graduating class, as well as senior and psychology major Alisa Robinson who received the title of valedictorian this year.

“It’s pretty great that we are a part of this monumental transition at the school and for me personally, I am so happy to be a part of the first graduating class of Sierra Nevada University,” Robinson said.

Robinson feels students should not be remembered just as the “corona class,” and encourages students to gain excitement for everyone’s accomplishments. “We shouldn’t fear the uncertainty, but be driven by it,” Robinson said.

Events for graduating students leading up to commencement include a virtual luau on Thursday, May 14 from 4-5 p.m., and Senior Night will be held virtually on Friday, May 15. A time for this event has not been set yet.

Will Hoida, Dean of Students and chair of the commencement committee, asks that anyone with comments, questions, or concerns, or who would like to help plan Senior Night should send an email to [email protected].

Kelly also encourages feedback. His email is [email protected].

SNU is asking all graduating students to visit the SNU website to fill out a few forms to receive a free cap and tassel as well as uploading a photo so every graduating student will have a personal slide during the ceremony.

Dan O’Bryan leads the business department during the 2018 SNU graduation ceremony. 

“Given that the economy is starting to go down and many are losing their jobs, having a physical graduation is the smallest issue we should worry about,” SNU senior Luka Gobec said in an email.  “Of course it would be nice to walk across the stage but not doing so does not diminish what we have achieved so far and will not preclude us from doing great things in the future.”

Beets said she understands that given the current situation, finding employment after college feels challenging. She encourages any student who wants help to reach out to her or other faculty/professors to get connected with resources for finding an internship or job.

“I know that you are going to use the personal characteristics that you’ve developed and the skills that you’ve learned at SNU to go out there in the world and help the world recover from this moment and make the future better,” Beets said. “I’m even more proud of this class than any class I’ve ever celebrated.”

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