By Victoria Maneske
Going virtual this academic year, is not the only adjustment students have had to make. Graduation, an event many look forward to, to celebrate their achievements will not be the same as well due to the ongoing pandemic. Recently, the question about graduation has been answered and for health and safety reasons, it has been decided that this year, CI’s graduation will be formed as a drive-in commencement ceremony, where graduates may bring family and friends inside the same vehicle and celebrate their achievement.
Alissa Blough, the Director of University Events and Special Programs, provided more details on the ceremony itself. She said, “The Commencement committee, comprised of multiple representatives from every division and student representatives, reviewed multiple scenarios under current guidelines. When we were thinking through the plan for commencement, we kept the goal of the graduate candidate feedback we had received at the forefront of our planning a safe event where graduate candidates could celebrate with loved ones and have a cross-the-stage moment. Given the restrictions that we felt would most likely be in effect at the time of commencement, we felt the plan we put forward would allow us to accomplish these goals.”
There will be ceremonies held across three days, from May 21 to May 23. As further explained by Blough, there will be two ceremonies held each day, one at 9 a.m. and one at 3 p.m., with some ceremonies for certain graduates held at specific times.
On Friday, May 21, the class of 2020 will have their ceremony at 9 a.m., and on Sunday, May 23, the 3 p.m. ceremony will be used for the class of 2021 master/credential candidates.
According to Blough, “Undergraduate candidates will be able to select from ceremony times and days for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Each ceremony will have a capacity limit and graduate candidates will be able to select the ceremony of their choice during registration from a drop-down menu as long as there is capacity left in that ceremony.”
During the ceremony, all graduate candidates are required to stay in an enclosed vehicle, but they will have a chance to receive their diploma and have a photo opportunity on a stage directly afterwards at a specific location. “It will function similar to a drive-thru except a graduate will exit their vehicle, pick up their diploma cover, cross a mini commencement stage where their loved ones can take a photo from their vehicle, and then return to their vehicle,” Blough said. The campus police have created a comprehensive traffic flow pattern to assist in directing graduates to the event location.
Regarding the commencement ceremony, Charity Winiarski, a senior English major, has plans to participate with her family by her side.
“I feel like this option is a great idea. I am excited that CI has decided to have an in-person ceremony, even if it is a drive-through. In my opinion, many students all over lost out on such a significant milestone with virtual-only events. Schools should have come up with creative drive-through events like this sooner to keep their communities together from the beginning,” Winiarski said. “I would agree that this type of ceremony could work well if the coordinators enforce social distancing guidelines. I think that only graduates should be allowed out of their car for at least one photo. If graduates are to be allowed to exit their vehicles for anything, then full masks should be mandatory. In my opinion, it just gives me something else I can decorate to match my cap and gown. I would like to add how excited and honored I am to be a future alumna of CSUCI.”
When asked if a one car limit has an impact on who gets to attend with her, Winiarski said, “Yes, slightly, but I wonder if there is a way that each graduate can have a max of two cars with them, theirs and one with parents, siblings, etc. I am married and have two children and I’m also sure that I am not the only student who is. They would likely be the only ones who can join me for this event if one car is the max allowed.”
More details for the drive-in commencement will be updated on the commencement website during March, with information on how to register and participate. Additionally, graduates should receive an email with specific information and links to register. You can visit the commencement website at https://www.csuci.edu/commencement/. Virtual Grad Fest will be held in late March.
“I’m really excited to be able to celebrate our graduates!” Blough stated. “In thinking through every possible scenario, this style of event will allow us to have graduates celebrate with their loved ones safely and in compliance with health regulations. Although it is not the style of event we look forward to every year, we are so excited to be able to celebrate their incredible achievements. I can’t wait to cheer each graduate as they enter campus!”