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Special, in-person commencement ceremonies honor 2020, 2021 graduates

September 20, 2021
<p>A baccalaureate graduate with their diploma at the 2020 graduate and spring and summer 2021 graduate commencement ceremony at the Breslin Center on Sept. 18, 2021.</p>

A baccalaureate graduate with their diploma at the 2020 graduate and spring and summer 2021 graduate commencement ceremony at the Breslin Center on Sept. 18, 2021.

Photo by Lauren Snyder | The State News

Four hundred and eighty, 271 and 101.

That’s how many days spring 2020 degree-level graduates, fall 2020 degree-level graduates and spring 2021 master’s, educational specialist and doctoral graduates had to wait to be handed their diplomas.

Michigan State University hosted a series of special, in-person commencements for these now-alumni on Sep. 17 to Sep. 19. The graduates had originally received a virtual commencement due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ceremonies looked a bit different than those the graduates would have originally attended. Face masks were heavily enforced while instead of the usual rows of chairs in front of the stage, graduates had to sit on bleachers.

Despite not all of the over 13,500 graduates attending the commencements, the Breslin Center was still packed with friends and family eagerly waiting to see their graduates finally walk across the stage.

Commencement speakers included Nobel Prize winner Robert H. Grubbs and married entrepreneurs Dan and Jennifer Gilbert. Grubbs was an MSU faculty member from 1969 to 1978 and both Gilberts graduated with bachelor’s degrees from the university.

The Gilberts’ commencement speech, which was pre-recorded and shown at the Sept. 18 and Sep. 19 ceremonies, emphasized the importance of having a “mission statement” as the graduates entered the next stage of their life. 

“It’s critical that you define your own mission,” Jennifer said in the video. “A mission allows us to put deep thought around our efforts, identify the resources needed and it provides a structure to end goals and milestones.”

At the Sept. 19 ceremony exclusively, College of Engineering 2020 graduate Shatha Alabbad delivered an in-person student address. Her speech was deeply personal, sharing her experience of persevering through the killing of her sister in a terrorist attack and earning a degree at MSU. 

Her message of not letting struggle and uncertainty define you certainly resonated with the graduates before her, as they entered a post-college world rife with both amid the pandemic.

“When we respond with love, I hope we emerge from this pandemic smarter and wiser,” Alabbad said.

Despite being up to a year and a half late for some, the ceremonies still held a feeling of finality and closure for the graduates.

College of Natural Sciences graduate Landrie Long, said it felt good to finally close this chapter of her life properly.

“It was a nice way to end things,” she said. “I started tearing up as we did the alma mater.”

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