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Find out how local colleges are adjusting graduation plans during the pandemic

Posted at 7:52 AM, Apr 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-30 08:33:13-04

WEST MICHIGAN — After a year of canceled or online graduations for most colleges and universities across michigan; 2021 has a different look.With time to plan during the pandemic, many schools are moving forward with the pomp and circumstance in their own special ways.

"One of the things that we've had to painfully put in place is that we will not have any family members able to come because this will be live streamed, so there [will] be plenty opportunity to see it. But that ceremony itself will include graduates and myself or provost and a couple of other people,” said GRCC President, Dr. Bill Pink.

Other sacrifices were made as well, in order to hold an in-person graduation this year at Grand Rapids Community College.

For example, their typical large ceremony was broken down into 4 smaller ones; 2 ceremonies Friday evening, April 30 and two more on Saturday, May 1.

"It's important to us that we are able to do this in the safest way possible,” said Dr. Pink. “But what it means to us is that we're able to say to our students, you did it, you made it in some cases, our students have persevered through a pandemic, through other challenges in their lives. And they come to this day where they're graduating, they got it done in a way that in many cases, nobody else in their family has ever had to navigate."

Grand Valley State University will hold a virtual ceremony Friday evening for their graduates, complete with the turning of the tassels. They also have a chance to walk on Saturday, May 1.

"What we did this year is we developed a program where students will be able to come into the field-house arena with their families and be able to walk across that stage and get that photo opportunity with their diploma and in front of the big screen,” LeaAnn Tibbe, GVSU Associate Director of Student Life. “So,we're excited for them."

They’re excited for the more than 3,000 students who will graduate from GVSU.The group will include some members of the 2020 class who didn't get their chance a year ago.

"We're doing a celebratory drive that they can take their last drive across campus, we have our own private radio station,” Tibbe said. “They can tune into while they're driving across campus, we have our several photo opportunities mark, where they can take additional photos."

Muskegon Community College will hold a drive thru commencement ceremony on Wednesday, May 5.

"We felt like this opportunity was the safest way to offer a commencement experience for our graduates while also being mindful of the current climate,” said Rachel Gorman, Muskegon Community College/Alumni and Donor Relations Manager.

“So, what that will look like for our graduates is they will show up to campus in their own vehicles suggested with drivers and any other guests that they can have limited to the capacity of their vehicle. But they will have an opportunity to drive through our campus be greeted by our traditional faculty tunnel. And then the graduates themselves are going to have an opportunity to exit their vehicles and actually crossed the stage with our Board of Trustees and president's cabinet as witnessed to receive their diploma covers, change their tassel move on get their professional photo taken and comments from Muskegon Community College."

It’s a time MCC grads have been looking forward to.

"We've been engaging with the students along the way. And I'm going to actually just had conversation with some of our student leadership to get a better understanding of the drive thru ceremony,” said Gorman. “And it was reassuring for me to hear our graduates say this actually sounds really fun. They're really excited to participate not only with their friends, but an opportunity for their families and their community to be there on that day and support them."

The 2021 graduates of the Western Michigan University Homer Stryker School of Medicine will have their graduation day on Saturday, May 15 and it will be a virtual graduation.

"We'll have folks joining the live stream from probably across the nation, if not across the world, which is really exciting,” said Jean Shelton-Assistant Dean of Admissions and Student Life. “So, at 2 p.m., folks will be able to jump on to the live stream and be able to see the full graduation ceremony with keynote speaker [and] student speaker Then instead of kind of that in person hooding, which is the big piece of getting your doctorate is being quoted on stage; in place of that we've created a really nice slideshow where students are able to still be recognized, and kind of get that moment without being herded on stage in person."

Congratulations to all of this year's graduates!