Michigan State University canceled its graduation ceremonies last spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This weekend, though the pandemic is still going, the university will graduate 5,000 students from the class of 2021.
And it will do so in person.
In an effort to keep celebrations COVID-safe, the university won’t be holding its traditional university-wide ceremony inside the Breslin Center.
Rather, its Infrastructure, Planning, and Facilities Unit was tasked with planning more than 50 outdoor ceremonies for graduates and limited numbers of guests starting Friday.
“The last year has been a very difficult one for students, faculty, and staff at Michigan State University, which is why we’re so excited to be able to provide these students and the faculty who educated them a more normal, in-person commencement ceremony,” said MSU Infrastructure, Planning, and Facilities spokesperson Fred Woodhams.
This year’s graduation festivities have been broken up into four main locations across campus: the parking lots of the Breslin Center, Spartan Stadium, Erickson Hall and the auditorium.
“It is more challenging to have it outdoors and during a time of COVID where we have to have that social distancing,” Woodhams said.
Mark Rokita works with the IPF’s Material and Logistics Department and says, no matter what challenges they’ve come up against, everyone is excited to be able to honor this class of Spartans.
“As a group that works on campus, we’re here for the students and because of the students, so when they said we would have four graduation lots we immediately got excited. We were all hands on deck to make this happen because I remember walking across the stage and that’s what your four years or eight years or six years is all about as a college student,” Rokita said.
Infrastructure, Planning, and Facilities has around 1,000 employees teaming up with departments across campus as well as external contractors and the MSU Police Department to keep ceremonies going smoothly throughout the weekend.
“Everything is being ushered, traffic control, the MSUPD will be involved. It’s going to be a well-oiled machine. One’s going to end; we’ll have an hour and 15 minutes between each ceremony. Crews will be on site to reset everything and make it ready for the next one,” Rokita said.
No matter where the next chapter of their lives takes the class of 2021, MSU officials say they’re so proud of how their students persisted through the pandemic.
“Congratulations! You guys have earned this commencement. I know it’s a different setting but you persevered through a rough year and Spartans will. So, congratulations to all of you,” Rokita said.
The university says they still plan to hold an in-person ceremony for the Class of 2020, but those dates have not been set.
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