Michigan State began in-person commencement ceremonies for the graduating class of spring 2021 Friday morning.
Due to COVID-19, the over 50 undergraduate graduation ceremonies for respective colleges and majors are being held outside in four different parking lots around the MSU campus and will take place throughout the weekend. In non-pandemic years, there are usually 20 college and university graduation ceremonies.
The commencement ceremonies will be held in the Breslin Center parking lot, the Spartan Stadium parking lot, the MSU Auditorium parking lot and the parking lot outside of Erickson Hall.
Even though there was a steady downpour throughout the morning commencement ceremonies, students were ecstatic that they could celebrate their accomplishments in person after spending the final two and a half semesters of their college career learning online.
Students gathered to celebrate with fellow classmates, their families and faculty to receive their diplomas in a socially distanced celebration of finishing their undergraduate degrees.
Costa Gianiodis was one of the students in the rain waiting for his diploma to mark the end of his time as a finance student at MSU. Despite the less than ideal weather, Gianiodis said he enjoyed being able to see his friends again and celebrate their accomplishments together.
“It was good," Gianiodis said. "You know, it was nice they got to put it on in person, although the weather wasn't exactly cooperative. ... But it was cool. It was awesome to see all my friends in-person after being online for so long.”
Gianiodis said that the Eli Broad College of Business did a good job at preparing the event and communicating with students to make it run as smoothly as possible.
“For doing it in person, they really made an effort to set them all up, get people tickets, and stuff like that, and make sure everything ran smoothly,” Gianiodis said. “And I think it really did. So it's kudos to them for giving us one last kind of send-off and, you know, moment to be in-person before we left the school.”
Cheri Speier-Pero, the associate dean of the Broad College of Business, agreed that the ceremonies so far have gone on without a hitch yet and said she is very happy with being able to have in-person commencement ceremonies for the students.
“I think it was really smooth sailing,” Speier-Pero said. “I thought the graduation, minus the rain, was actually fabulous. For the Broad College of Business, we decided to organize the graduations that we had by departments, so by major, and that allowed us to have, I think, a little greater personalization for the graduates. So this morning was Finance and we had a pretty packed house.”
Jennifer and Fredrick Ziemianin Sr. were among the parents in attendance for the supply chain management commencement on Friday afternoon and were overjoyed to be able to celebrate their son, Frederick Ziemianin’s, graduation.
“It means a lot, we really appreciate it,” Jennifer said. “The kids have struggled, being isolated from their peers in the community, you know. So being able to be a part of this, see this, all of his hard work culminate and acknowledgment of all the work the kids have put in over the past four years and the school to make everything safe and to allow us to participate in celebrating the end of his four years here at MSU.”
The graduation ceremonies are the first in-person gatherings of 20 or more people on the Michigan State campus since the University was shut down in March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On top of being held outside, commencement looks much different than in years past before the pandemic. Students, family and faculty members were wearing masks, as required by the MSU Community Compact, students could only bring two guests to limit the number of people in attendance and some graduations had messages from Provost Teresa Woodruff and President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. played on projectors rather than being delivered in person.
Speier-Pero said that despite the success of this year’s graduation so far, she expects to return to normal commencement ceremonies with more people in attendance in the future.
“Normally when each graduate's name gets announced, you hear the family right?” Speier-Pero said. “And you heard some students cheering on their fellow students. But it's tough when you only have two family members in attendance at most. It just didn't have that same joyful, celebratory feel. So that's the piece that makes me think we would more likely go back to our college graduations going forward so that we could be inclusive of all of the family that a graduate wishes to have with them.”
Gianiodis said that he was fine with the commencement without the typical bells and whistles because he appreciated being able to have an in-person ceremony at all after being subjugated to online school and work the last year and two months.
“I mean, I'm sure we all kind of know by now that being online isn't exactly the same as being in person,” Gianiodis said. “You don't really have the same effect, or I guess, emotions if that makes sense. But for me, it was really exciting like I said, to see everybody in person and walk across the stage in person and not have to be online.”
Share and discuss “2021 Spring Graduation is underway” on social media.