BVU Commencement Ceremony 2020


Jordyn Daggs-Olson, Staff Writer

Now that the spring semester is officially underway, there are plenty of students who are looking ahead to the beginning of May. None more so than the graduating seniors who, during a normal year, would be filled with excitement and anticipation. However, that is not the case for this year as many questions remain unanswered, the primary one being—will there be an in-person commencement ceremony this May?  

President Lenzmeier’s answer to that question: yes, but it will look different.  

“We are planning to do some form of in-person [graduation],” Lenzmeier said 

The committee organizing graduation is comprised of a variety of individuals from event services, maintenance, student life, student media, and so on. They have been discussing potential options since the beginning of January.   

As University Chaplain, Dr. Melanie Hauser has been in these conversations about graduation and the traditional ceremonies that go along with it. Baccalaureate usually kicks off the day with a morning service attended by graduates with performances by the school choir. Hauser said that changes are in the works to still hold the service in a safe way.  

Baccalaureate is going to be held in Schaller Chapel…We believe there is enough space to spread everyone out,” Hauser stated 

Current plans include offering the ceremony virtually for guests to watch along with prerecorded speeches from select alumni. With all the required adaptations, the University still wants to provide graduates with some form of the traditional graduation experience.  

Lenzmeier emphasized the need to observe traditions within the commencement ceremony 

“You’ve got to go through the arch…You have got to have a message from somebody. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a long speech, but somebody to give you some guidance moving forward. And I want to read people’s names and have parents be able to applaud and see their kids or their loved ones, or in some cases with our non-traditional students their kids, see them get their degree,” Lenzmeier explained.  

Senior Director of Communications for University Marketing and Communications (UMC), Kelsey Clausen, stated in an email that “It is the University’s intention to provide 2020 and 2021 graduates with in-person experiences in accordance with CDC guidelines, assuming the pandemic does not significantly worsen.” 

Adherence to COVID-19 protocols is still a priority throughout the planning process. Typically, graduation is held inside Siebens Fieldhouse, with an average of over two thousand people spread out on the gymnasium floor and in the bleachers. That, obviously, is not going to happen for the class of 2021.  

So, what does “looking different” mean?  

“It probably means multiple ceremonies and spacing it out so that we can keep the capacity at a safe level.” 

The details of the commencement ceremony are up in the air as the committee analyzes all the options that are up for discussion. This includes how to divide the graduates, how much time should be allotted between ceremonies, how should the event be organized and so on. One thing that is not up for as much debate, according to Dr. Lenzmeier, is the presence of friends and families.  

“We could fit every student into the fieldhouse and spread everybody out and do it virtually, but I really would rather do it [in] multiple ceremonies or timed out in such a way that family and loved ones can be there, Lenzmeier stated.  

One of the next steps that has to be completed before any decisions are finalized about commencement is getting an accurate number on how many graduates plan to attend the ceremony in person, as well as their number of attending guests. While it can be assumed that most of the Storm Lake graduates will likely attend, that is not necessarily the case for the online, site and graduate students who will also be invited to participate. The numbers collected from this will dictate the number of ceremonies and if they can be held inside Siebens Fieldhouse or should be relocated to the football field.  

Graduating seniors should be on the lookout in the near future for a survey that asks them to commit to a decision of attending or foregoing the in person ceremony. When making their choice, Dr. Hauser wants to remind students the symbolic importance of commencement. “I really think it’s important to have in-person commencement because it allows people to close one chapter of their lives[graduation] doesn’t feel like a final thing when you do it online. Life is built around relationships, and so we have tried to keep up relationships virtually during the pandemic, but there’s nothing like being in person with somebody,” Hauser concluded.