SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — College graduation can be one of the biggest events of a young adult’s life.
But this year, the celebration may not happen in the midst the COVID-19 pandemic.
KOLR10’s Frances Lin spoke to three expecting graduates at Missouri State University, and president Clif Smart, about graduation this year
“I don’t want to graduate on zoom,” said Lauren Stockam, a senior expecting to graduate Missouri State University.
“Graduation is what everybody sets their eyes to,” said Alex Coffin, another senior expecting to graduate Missouri State University, “kind of what you look at whenever it gets tough.”
“I’m probably going to get emotional,” Stockam said, “I wasn’t expecting to cry.”
Three Missouri State Seniors, ready to graduate.
“I was really grateful to make a home at Missouri State,” said Molly Gilliam, another senior expecting to graduate Missouri State University.
“Made some of my best friends there, and have made some of the best memories of my life,” Stockam said.
“The lifelong friendships that I’m going to take away from it,” said Coffin.
“It seems like kind of a small gesture when you’re not the one graduating, but when you are the one graduating, it’s a really big deal,” explained Stockam.
President Clif Smart agreed, saying “college graduation is really a sentimental event for someone.”
“I’m a first generation college graduate on my mom’s side of the family,” said Gilliam.
“Your name would get called, walk across the stage, you show your diploma, cheering, all that kind of deal,” Coffin said.
“I’ve been stressing out all year about what to put on my mortar board,” said Stockam, “I already ordered my cap and gown.”
But this year, the ceremony will not happen as planned.
“The peak of the coronavirus in Missouri is mid-May, and so once that information became more certain, that made sense to say, well we can’t do a large graduation on May the 15th or 16th,” president Smart explained, “people have been working to postpone and reschedule graduation for three, five, eight, months. That’s almost unheard of I think in our business.”
“It hurts,” said Stockam, “and it’s been painful.”
“You know, all the college graduates before were going to get to do that, and all the ones after, but maybe not this class,” said Coffin.
“Missouri state has been very special to me,” Stockam said, “[it has] given me so much in the past four years, and for this situation to happen at the time that it’s happening, it feels I can’t give Missouri State like that proper goodbye.”
The graduates did tell KOLR10 that while they’re disappointed, it is the right thing to do.
“It’s totally bigger than us,” said Stockam.
“The parents, and the people that would be at risk by attending a physical ceremony, I think it’s worth it to forgo that ceremony,” said Coffin.
“I was hoping that all graduates of college, high school, even grade school, still feel recognized, and still feel proud of their accomplishments, with or without a formal ceremony,” Gilliam said.
“We still want to do something meaningful to commemorate this really important time in their lives, and so we will be working on that as well,” said president Smart.
President Smart also said they are still taking suggestions from students, and expects to make a decision about what to do with graduation around June.