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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Campus

UH holds virtual commencement for all 2020 graduates


Commencement ceremonies for all 2020 graduating classes took place remotely in alignment with COVID-19 health and safety protocol. | Juana Garcia/The Cougar

The University held a virtual graduation commencement on Thursday evening to honor 2020 graduates from the spring, summer and fall semesters.

Opting to hold off on traditional in-person ceremonies, the University cited advice from public health experts for the decision.

The choice comes after a petition circulated among students, stating that UH could hold face-to-face graduations if they could safely hold football games on campus.

“Research shows that large group events and extended family travel create a greater risk for community spread,” according to a statement on the UH website.

“The strong potential for a resurgence of the COVID-19 virus in late fall/early winter is one reason the University also altered this semester’s academic calendar to end in-person classes after Thanksgiving.” 

UH acknowledged the disappointment and dissatisfaction graduates may have felt at the absence of in-person celebrations, but emphasized the University remains “committed to inviting graduates back to a future, in-person commencement when it is safe to do so.”

No date has been projected for when these face-to-face ceremonies could take place.

UH alumna Lauren Koen feels that attending an in-person graduation ceremony in the future would feel like backing away from the present.

“As a May 2020 graduate, I know that for myself and many of my classmates, we have already moved on to our careers and participating in a graduation now, especially one that is virtual, feels like taking a step backwards,” said Koen. 

The virtual commencement wasn’t completely different than a conventional in-person ceremony.

The celebration included greetings from President Renu Khator, chairman of the UH System Board of Regents Tillman Fertitta and a special message from former UH student and olympian Carl Lewis.

Despite COVID-19 forcing graduation festivities online, UH alumna Jordan Matranga feels thankful for the encouragement offered by commencement speakers and that she was able to spend her graduation with family members.  

“I’ve learned to be really appreciative of the efforts UH took to make our online graduation special,” Matranga said. “I noticed there were so many well-known people that were able to give us a virtual ‘congratulations’ during the commencement. The little things like that stand out so much more in these times.”

“I actually really enjoyed the virtual graduation. It was originally a bit of a letdown that my family wouldn’t get to see my walk across a stage this year. It’s something I have always dreamed about since I started college,” Matranga said.

“But I have to say, eating take-out with my family and watching the ceremony online ended up being kind of fun! We made the most out of it for sure.”

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