Campus News

Graduating Seniors versus COVID-19

By: Annie Hart and June Wambua

Shenandoah University seniors just got the last few months of college ripped away from them. As dramatic as that sounds, it’s true, we know because we’re seniors too. All of us are heartbroken. 

President Tracy Fitzsimmons alerted seniors to the idea of graduation during homecoming weekend in the 2020-2021 school year. The goal is for it occur Sunday, October 18th and celebrate August graduates as well as May 2020 graduates.

But still, everything is up in the air. Will COVID be over? Will we be able to have a graduation of thousands of people in a few months? Nothing can be for sure, and the university is making sure students understand this. 

Seniors have been struggling with this idea of ambiguity since the university closed weeks ago. 

Joe Simila, Sports Management Major, said “I’m devastated I guess. I won’t be able to see one of my best friends ever again. He’s moving to Minnesota taking a job. And I won’t be able to see my girlfriend or friends for a couple months as I live in Florida. It sucks.”

Simila is one of many deeply upset by the sudden goodbyes. Not being able to see friends before we go on our separate life trails has been weighing heavily on all of our hearts.

Different from the students before and after them, the class of 2020 will not have the chance to experience many college “lasts” before they are thrust into the reality of the working world. 

Music therapy student Marco Morillo reflects on the activities in which they will miss.

“I am missing out on the blossoming of my favorite flowers and trees on campus, I am missing out on my senior recital, and I am missing out on a lot of other musical ‘lasts’ with my favorite jam partners. I am missing out on my “lasts” as a work study student in the Mosaic Center, the activities and dinner dialogues that always bring me joy.”

Following Shenandoah University’s announcement to continue with remote instruction for the rest of the semester, the true confirmation of a 2020 commencement ceremony remains unknown. 

The increased uncertainty about the commencement is causing an array of emotions. 

Morillo says “I am heartbroken that I may not have the chance to share this moment of celebration with the faculty, the peers, and the friends and families that have been supporting me all this time.”

Colleges across the country have made the decision to cancel the commencement or have a virtual ceremony. Such a decision is heartbreaking to the students that worked tirelessly to reach such an important milestone like graduation. 

Adina Wambua, media and communication major, hopes the in-person ceremony in October will occur; “I don’t want to be one of those students that has to attend graduation virtually. I think it’s a slap in the face for students who worked so hard for 4+ years to get degrees.

Shenandoah University’s decision about the 2020 commencement is still not set in stone due to the ever changing situation around COVID-19. This  is obviously making many graduates nervous. “I don’t like waiting,” says Wambua. “The longer I wait to hear news about the graduation, the more nervous I become.”

Some students, like Morillo, are trying to find something positive from an otherwise heartbreaking situation. “I’m trying to focus on how I can use this as a learning experience about sharing my love and gratitude for others,” they said. 


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