Dordt plans in-person commencement ceremony

Jaclyn Vander Waal– Staff Writer

Dordt University graduates will put on their cap and gown on May 7 to walk across the B.J. Haan Auditorium and receive their diploma in person.

That may seem insignificant, but after an academic year full of many changes and hiccups due to COVID-19, an in-person commencement was not guaranteed.

Jim Bos, registrar and director of institutional research at Dordt, said the university’s decision was driven by the students’ desire to gather together one last time as a graduating class. 

Dordt prides itself with its traditional ceremony structure, so he said certain aspects had to be incorporated despite the challenges of COVID-19: the academic marshal walking in with the ceremonial mace, the faculty on stage, the students walking across the stage for their diplomas, the commencement speech, a song from the Concert Choir and the recessional past the guests. 

“We aren’t doing normal, but what we are trying for is a ceremony that gets at all of those same key elements that we always have,” he said.

Julia Yoder, a senior business administration major who plans on working for Amazon as a loss prevention specialist following graduation, is excited for the opportunity to graduate in person. 

“I am all for it,” she said. “A screen cannot replace that community of being together and getting closure.”

Bos said a few changes had to be made to the graduation, however. Rather than sitting on stage during the ceremony, graduates will be spaced out in the front pews. 

As for guests, each graduate filled out a survey to secure up to four tickets. The attendants can either sit in the B.J. Haan Auditorium, where the seats will be spaced out less than six feet, to watch the graduation in person, or in the De Witt Gymnasium and Rec Center, where seats will be completely socially distanced, to watch the ceremony live-streamed. Only two of the four guests can select in-person seating. Based on the survey responses so far, Bos said most guests are opting to select two in-person and two live-streamed tickets.

The commencement speaker will be David Mulder, an associate professor of education at Dordt. His address will be on why it is important to never stop learning.

Graduates and guests will be required to wear masks. Following the ceremony, people will be encouraged to gather outside to congratulate the graduates.

Commencement is scheduled for 10 a.m.

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