Winter commencement ceremony to be held online

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Peter Smedley/NW VIRTUAL CATS— The Wildcat statue has been a popular place to take graduation photos since its construction in 2018. Although commencement is online, students may be seen taking photos with the cat.

Rayna Sherbinow

In a year full of virtual events, online club meetings and classes held over Zoom, it should come as no surprise that graduation is receiving a digital makeover this semester. Traditionally hosted in the Superior Dome, the ceremony will now be presented online. NMU’s Commencement Committee is responsible for planning the event. Laura Glover, executive assistant in The Office of the President, serves as the committee chair. 

“The Commencement Ceremony will be a virtual live ceremony on May 1,” Glover said. “The stage will be set up like a normal ceremony with a small platform party including President Erickson, Provost Schuiling and the Academic Deans. Additional speakers [the keynote speaker and student speaker] will most likely be recorded. A name reader will be present on the stage and will announce all the names of the graduates.”

An online presentation means an online audience. Instead of packing the Superior Dome, graduates, friends and family will watch the program from home. Glover says approximately 925 students are currently registered to graduate this semester. When students register for graduation, they can choose whether or not to participate in the online ceremony. When communication major Devontae Stine registered, he chose to attend virtual graduation.

“I made that decision because I’m only going to graduate college once, so regardless of whether it be online or not I might as well experience it,” Stine said.

College graduation is, for most, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Although Stine chose to take part in the online commencement, he wishes the event could be held in a more traditional in-person setting.

“I am rather disappointed that the ceremony is online because it ruins most of the experience of being at graduation with all of the friends you’ve made over your college career,” Stine said. “It also ruins the whole ‘walking the stage’ at graduation which is extremely disappointing.”

For Stine and many other students, the opportunity to take pictures commemorating the success is part of what makes graduation special. Although students will not be walking to receive their diplomas in person, the Commencement Committee plans to provide photo opportunities.

“We are in the process of setting up some options for graduates to be able to get graduation-related photographs,” Glover said. “More information will be available to graduates soon.”

Glover understands the importance of graduation. She assures students that the committee is doing its best given the circumstances.

“President Erickson and the Commencement Committee know that it’s very disappointing to many graduates and their families not to have an in-person ceremony,” Glover said. “However, with the COVID-19 gathering restrictions and travel concerns, a live virtual commencement seems to be our best alternative with this many graduates.”

At an in-person ceremony, graduation is the center of everyone’s attention. Stine fears that with online commencement, this may not be the case. He anticipates distractions from the outside world that may impede his enjoyment of the event. Stine places the blame squarely on the shoulders of COVID-19, which has upended so many facets of life in just shy of a year.

“All in all I’m disappointed in the ceremony being online and everything about COVID-19 ruining the whole event,” Stine said. “But we have to play the hand that we’re dealt and the online ceremony is better than nothing.”

The ceremony may be different, but the registration process is the same. The deadline for online registration has passed, but students may still complete a request to add graduation form. A $40 fee must be paid prior to graduation, regardless of participation in the ceremony. This fee is viewable on the ebill found under the Student Services tab of MyNMU. 

To learn more about commencement at NMU, visit the commencement webpage. For more information on preparing for graduation, check out NMU’s Graduation Timeline.