For the first time in two years, guests will be allowed at the University of New Mexico commencement ceremonies at The Pit on Dec. 16 and 17. Masks and vaccinations will be required for a majority of attendees.
Graduates from the classes of 2020 and 2021 are invited to celebrate after past commencements during the COVID-19 pandemic were either virtual or without guests due to the nature of the pandemic.
At the upcoming ceremonies, anyone over 12 years old must provide proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours, and anyone over 2 years old must wear a mask.
Both the undergraduate and graduate ceremonies will be held at The Pit at 6 p.m. on different days so that “the number of people that we would anticipate coming (will be) mitigated,” according to UNM spokesperson Cinnamon Blair. The graduate commencement will be held on Dec. 16 and the undergraduate commencement will be held on Dec. 17. Both ceremonies will be livestreamed.
Blair said the University is following COVID-19 trends closely, “taking into consideration public health orders and what’s worked in the past.” The University has been training staff members and volunteers on how to successfully enforce vaccination requirements through aspects like checking vaccination cards and identification.
“In organizing the first in-person and public commencement event since 2019, the health and safety of the Lobo and extended communities remains the No. 1 priority. The environment in which we celebrate our students’ accomplishments will inform the success of future in-person ceremonies,” a Campus Communications email from Dec. 9 read.
The COVID-19 policies are subject to change at any time. Any potential changes will be emailed out to students signed up for commencement as well as posted on the UNM graduation webpage.
“Everything we’re doing is informing the next step. So we’ve done really well (with) the virtual ceremony then moving to the hybrid in-person but no guests and now having a full in-person with some requirements around it,” Blair said.
Over 900 undergraduate students signed up to attend this semester’s ceremony with approximately 26% being from previous graduation classes that didn’t get a traditional ceremony, and almost 270 graduate students signed up to attend with about 25% from other classes that missed traditional commencement as well, according to University Secretary Nancy Middlebrook.
The University is encouraging students to cap their number of guests at six so there will be enough room for everyone.
“It’s just such a milestone for our students and their families, something they worked so hard for, so to have it in person is awesome. And last year we moved into the in-person (ceremony) but guests weren’t allowed, so this is the first time where it’s going to feel like a regular graduation, but we’re still taking precautions,” Blair said.
Upcoming graduate Alexandria Wiesel already completed her first degree in the spring and is finishing another this semester. She didn’t go to commencement last year since guests weren’t allowed.
“I’m also very pleased (that) the other year is going to be included in commencement because it really means a lot … It’s really a sense of finishing something that you’ve been working so hard on,” Wiesel said.
Blair emphasized the importance of what the graduation ceremony means for students, and said “that celebratory mark is something that people don’t forget.”
“It is a tangible celebration of an accomplishment. You think about the number of years and hours one works to get one’s degree, whether it’s undergraduate or graduate, and it’s time to invite your family to celebrate with you and your friends,” Blair said.
“I’m really really happy for myself and the other graduates of this semester because it really means a lot,” Wiesel said. “It really is a sense of closure and understanding that you’ve done it and you can start doing something else now.”
Megan Gleason is the Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @fabflutist2716