The class of 2021 was greeted with clear skies and a bright sun at its commencement ceremonies Saturday May 15, burning away the pandemic-induced fog that shrouded last year’s graduation ceremonies.
Unlike past years, three ceremonies were offered for 2021 graduates. The first ceremony, a traditional commencement, started at 10 a.m. in the Seth Grove Stadium. The other two ceremonies began at 1 p.m. and at 4 p.m. in the Luhrs Performing Arts Center parking lot. This is the second year Shippensburg University has hosted commencement ceremonies modified to fit COVID-19 protocol and guidelines.
For the traditional ceremony, graduates were allowed three guests to sit in the stadium. Each graduate, speaker and individuals on the field wore a mask. Attendees sat on both sets of bleachers and spaced out to follow CDC guidelines.
The class of 2021 was the first class to graduate in the Seth Grove Stadium since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020. Even with masks and distance protocols, many things remained the same for this year's graduates. Led by the mace bearer, the graduates who attended the stadium ceremony marched in from an entrance by the ShipRec. Faculty and staff that participated in the ceremony entered from the area beneath the bleachers.
2020-2021 Student Government Association (SGA) President Stephen Washington and graduate student Aven Bittinger congratulated the graduates and commended them for their hard work, especially over the past year.
SU President Laurie Carter then took the stage as the keynote speaker. “The degree you received today is well earned and deserves recognition and celebration. You have reached this goal in a year that will certainly fill many pages of history books,” Carter said.
She reflected on her own journey through her graduate degree as a first-generation student, her journey to becoming the first person of color and female president of SU. She remarked about the “waves'' she made and rode over her journey and how they helped her grow as a person during her time at SU.
Carter recognized student athletes, honors college students, band members, greek life members, first-generation students, resident assistants and peer anchors, ROTC members, student club and organization members, and graduate students in the class of 2021.
According to Carter, the graduates learned “to ride the wave,” or rather tsunami, of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I don't know if any of you were surfers before, but you most certainly qualify as extreme surfers in life” she said.
Carter expressed her pride in the Class of 2021 and that she looked forward to seeing where they would go before presenting the degrees.
The following two ceremonies were held in the parking lot near the Luhrs Performing Arts Center and in the resident lot near the baseball field. The drive-in ceremonies had the same speakers and proceedings as the traditional ceremony.
A stage was set up in the Luhrs parking lot where the speakers, faculty and staff, graduate students and attendees gathered. The resident parking lot had a screen and speakers set up for undergraduate students and attendees. When it came time to hand out diplomas, the undergraduate students made their way to the Luhrs parking lot. They lined up behind the graduate students and received their diplomas in front of the stage.
Congratulations Class of 2021.