FSU to hold first in-person Commencement since 2019
By Abigail Petrucci
FSU will be holding the first in-person Commencement in two years at the DCU Center in Worcester May 22.
President F. Javier Cevallos said in an email March 3, “The celebration, which will include both undergraduate and graduate students, will begin at 9:30 a.m.
“It has been a long two years of dealing with COVID and I have been amazed by your resilience during that time,” he added. “The pandemic is not over, but the downward trend of cases, combined with high rates of immunity from vaccinations and prior infection, allow us this opportunity to put on this celebration in a safe manner.”
According to Cevallos, some of the factors that went into making the decision to hold an in-person Commencement included vaccination trends and the decrease in positive COVID-19 tests.
“We’re all hoping that the pandemic is coming to an end somehow, and that the virus is becoming less and less lethal,” he said. “It seems to me that we’re moving in the right direction and it’s time to go back to some semblance of normalcy.”
According to Cevallos’ executive assistant, Katie Hebert, Commencement will be a mask-optional event. “Anyone wishing to wear a mask during the ceremony is encouraged to do so, but they will not be required,” she said.
Cevallos said there are plans to have a hand sanitizer dispenser available so “students can clean their hands as they go to get their diploma and shake hands.”
Hebert added the University reserves the right to change graduation protocols if public health
conditions worsen closer to Commencement.
Graduates will not be limited on the number of guests that can attend, Hebert said. The DCU Center can hold approximately 10,000 guests, and with an estimated number of 800 students walking in the Commencement, Hebert said they expect to fill the auditorium.
This year’s Commencement speaker will be White House reporter and MSNBC host Jonathan Lemire.
Lemire, from Lowell, Massachusetts, is a former reporter for the New York Daily News and a White House reporter for the Associated Press. He is now the White House Bureau Chief for Politico and the host of “Way Too Early” on MSNBC.
He is a graduate of Columbia University, and the nephew of FSU’s co-coordinator of the Master of Health Administration Program, Stephen Lemire.
According to Cevallos, a committee chaired by Interim Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Ellen Zimmerman chose the speaker.
“It’s a student-driven process,” he said. “The students suggest names, and we try from the
administrators’ side to get the names that they suggest.
“We’re very fortunate to have Jonathan Lemire,” he added.
Senior Samantha Collette, president of the Class of 2022, will also be speaking backstage at
“I will not be speaking on stage during Commencement due to the merge of the graduate and
undergraduate ceremonies, but I will get to speak backstage while we anticipate walking,” she said. “I am sad that I cannot speak on stage this year, but I feel fortunate to be our class hype-person and get all of us excited to graduate in our final moments all together as a class.”
Collette said she is “absolutely thrilled” to attend Commencement in person this year.
“I can’t wait to see my friends dressed in their cap and gowns and be recognized for all of the hard work we’ve done over the last few years,” she said. “When we went into quarantine our sophomore year and it kept being extended, I think a lot of us thought the rest of our college experience would be ruined, so to come out of this strong and be able to attend the most important event of our undergraduate experience in person is very rewarding.
“It means a lot to me that Commencement is in-person after two years. I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity that was not granted to previous classes. It is certainly not something that will be taken for granted,” she added.
Many other seniors said they were excited they will be able to attend Commencement in person.
Allison Balcolm, an ASL major, said, “It is extremely important to have an in-person Commencement. I’m glad that our school has learned from the past two years and has made a reasonable choice for our class.”
Carly Eiten, a fashion design and retailing major, said, “I am so excited and grateful that
Commencement is in person this year! Being at the DCU Center with my fellow classmates will remind me of my accomplishments over these past four years that got me to graduation.”
Ana Carla Soria Heidemann, a food and nutrition major, said, “It has brought me hope and energy to finish off the semester knowing that there will be an event to celebrate – a day to have joy and gather with loved ones.”
Cate Bromery, a fashion design and retailing major, said, “I personally am very happy about having in-person Commencement. Graduation is a huge milestone for so many of us, and I think the fact that we can all be there and celebrate together is really special and gives us back the sense of community that we have been missing for so long due to COVID-19.”
Nate Rogers, a communication, media and performance major, said, “I am happy to get to see my friends all together in person one last time.”
Cevallos said, “It’s such an important day for your academic life. I think this is a great opportunity to bring the families and students back together.
“We’re all enthusiastically waiting for it,” he added.