More details announced about WT’s virtual December graduation; In-person ceremonies planned for spring

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CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – According to West Texas A&M University, over 1,000 students, ages 19 to 70, will graduate in a virtual December commencement ceremony.

For a second time, both in 2020 and the University’s entire history, graduation ceremonies will be held online out of concern for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The University says the decision was announced in mid-November. WT President Dr. Walter Wendler discussed his rationale in an op-ed that weighed pros and cons, detailed the reasons why commencement ceremonies are different than intercollegiate athletic competitions, and assessed WT’s responsibility as a good neighbor in the communities it serves.

“We understand why students and their families want to celebrate their accomplishments, and we are committed to making this virtual commencement ceremony as special as possible, building on what we learned from our May ceremony,” said Dr. Neil Terry, WT provost and executive vice president.

The University says that students who graduated in 2020 (May, summer, or December) may elect to attend planned, in-person Spring 2021 commencement ceremonies.

“We intend to provide all graduates from the classes of 2020 and 2021 options for an in-person graduation ceremony in late March, the middle of April or early May,” Terry said. “We will share specific details in February.”

The virtual commencement page will go live at 10 a.m. on Dec. 12 and will remain online through Jan. 4 so families can watch any time over the Christmas holidays and celebrate with their graduates.

In addition to an official commencement address from WT President Dr. Walter Wendler, the virtual ceremony also will include video remarks from The Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp, TAMUS Board of Regents President Elaine Mendoza and WT’s academic deans, among others.

As in May, students are encouraged to submit a one- to three-minute video allowing them to thank family, friends, faculty and coaches for their support; approved videos will be linked to from each college’s commencement page. Instructions to submit videos are located here.

The University continues to say that a virtual Donning of the Stoles ceremony — a tradition among African-American, Hispanic and international students —also will be included on the commencement page. Parents, family members or friends place a stole on their graduate and express what the student means to them as they move into their next stage of life, said Angela Allen, chief diversity and inclusion officer.

Several academic deans will stage photo opportunities with their graduates before the virtual ceremony, as well.

“We’re as disappointed as our students that there will not be a physical graduation ceremony in December, though we certainly know that there was no other choice, given the conditions we’re facing,” said Dr. Jessica Mallard, dean of the Sybil B. Harrington College of Fine Arts and Humanities. “We know how important it is to celebrate our students’ achievements, however, and setting aside this time is one way we can find a little normalcy in these abnormal times.”

Schedules photo opportunities include;

  • College of Engineering: 1-3 p.m. Dec. 2 and 11 a.m.- 1 p.m. Dec. 8 in the outdoor area north of the Engineering Building.
  • College of Fine Arts and Humanities: 3 to 6 p.m. Dec. 8 in the courtyard between the Jack B. Kelley Student Center, Mary Moody Northen Recital Hall and the Sybil B. Harrington Fine Arts Complex. An additional photo opportunity took place Nov. 23.
  • Paul Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 9 in the Vernon Harman Courtyard at the PECANS complex.

Graduation regalia, says the University, is optional – but social distancing and masks will be enforced.

Degrees will be awarded to all qualified students, and diplomas and graduate pins will be mailed. Students will receive an email from the dean’s office of the college from which they will graduate to confirm their mailing address and ensure that diplomas are mailed out correctly.

This graduating class includes students hail from 40 states and 20 different countries, and 29 graduates are veterans of the U.S. armed forces. Nearly 50 percent of all graduates are the first in their families to earn a college degree.

“This was a difficult decision, but we know that it was the right one,” President Wendler said. “Our 2020 graduates have faced adversities that few other Buffaloes have seen, and their accomplishments are worthy of being celebrated, no matter what the format.”

WT says it is committed to serving both the campus and the community, as detailed in the University’s long-term plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World.

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