On Saturday, May 14 at 9 a.m., the University of New Mexico will be holding its in-person commencement ceremony at the University Arena. The ceremony will be only the second ceremony in which guests are allowed back in person since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We're thankful that we can get back to having families and guests there and celebrating our students for this wonderful accomplishment,” University Secretary Nancy Middlebrook said.
The event will feature keynote speaker Mark Herman, CEO of Dion's, along with performances by the UNM Brass Choir and the singing of the national anthem by Cameron Smith, a graduate student in the vocal performance program.
“I think each ceremony has its uniqueness, but I love UNM ceremonies,” Middlebrook said.
Alongside Herman, there are several other people speaking including former Associated Students of UNM President Greg Romero, who is also graduating this year. He said the process of preparing to speak has been a challenge for him knowing he will be alongside experienced people.
“So it's really just trying to find that balance of talking to your peers, but also giving a good graduation speech with a message,” Romero said.
He also spoke about the excitement of this ceremony being in person, especially compared to graduates who only received a virtual commencement in the past.
“It's like (it’s) just another day when you just watch it online, but once you get dressed up in your cap and gown, you're going to this event. I think it's really, really cool. I think it's a really good experience. I think it's more memorable for sure for the graduating students,” Romero said.
Along with the University's commencement at the Pit, several departments and student resource centers host their own commencement ceremonies, including the LGBTQ Resource Center’s Rainbow Convocation and African American Student Service’s Black Graduation and awards ceremony, which took place on April 29 and May 5, respectively.
Frankie Flores, the director of the LGBTQ Resource Center, said that hosting the Rainbow Convocation (which will be renamed to “Pride Convocation” starting next year) is a chance to “celebrate Trans and Queer excellence which so often we don't get to do”. The event was attended by about 70 people, and Flores emceed in drag.
“We do have a Pride Convocation because there are some folks who aren't out to their families so they get to have one ceremony where they are graduating as their holistic selves,” Flores said.
For queer students who were not able to make the convocation, Flores said to email them to receive a certificate and cords. A complete list of upcoming departmental convocations can be found online. Middlebrook said that while they do offer suggestions and coordinate with individual programs, those ceremonies are planned entirely by their respective departments. For the university-wide ceremony, she also said that a lot of work and people go into planning it.
“It's (not just) one person that does it. There are a lot of people that work to make sure that we have a successful event for our students, and we're very grateful for everyone. We have a lot of volunteers that help us during the day of the ceremony,” Middlebrook said.
Romero said that he encourages graduating students to attend the ceremony because it's a chance to celebrate their achievements with their family, friends and peers.
“I think this is like the send-off; This is the celebration of your work for the past however many years you've been here at the University. To miss it, I think, is unfortunate because you get one shot at celebrating this and you get to do it with all your peers who are doing the same exact thing,” Romero said. “I think that's a really important part of what it means to go to a university like UNM.”
Madeline Pukite is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @maddogpukite