Many Ohio University students are grateful for the option to attend in-person commencement ceremonies this spring after OU originally planned for all ceremonies to be held virtually.     

Early in the Spring Semester, OU announced that spring commencement would be entirely virtual, but said it would reevaluate its plans based on changes in state guidelines. Last week, the university updated its plans, giving seniors the option to graduate in-person or virtually. 

For many, the chance to graduate in-person makes for a more momentous end to their four years at OU in comparison to a virtual ceremony. 

“(Graduation) is going to be more wholesome, for sure,” Kimberly Rohrbach, a senior studying nursing, said. “We're actually going to be doing something, whereas if it was virtually, nothing was going to happen.” 

Not only will students be able to graduate in-person, but they will be able to celebrate in Athens with their friends and family. 

“We wanted graduates to at least be able to have someone here with them because we know that that is part of the meaningful experience and the journey that students go through,” Jennifer Kirksey, OU president Duane Nellis’ chief of staff, said. “(Students) have support systems and families, and so we wanted to make sure that graduates still were able to have family members here if they chose.”

Each student will be able to have two guests with them at the commencement ceremony, which will be held in Peden Stadium this year, according to a previous Post report

Lydia Sander, a senior studying music, accepts that the guest list will be limited due to COVID-19 virus restrictions. The ability to have her parents in town for the commencement ceremony, despite those restrictions, is particularly special, she said. 

“Sometimes it's not about the student, though, sometimes it's about their families,” Jenny Hall-Jones, interim vice president for student affairs and dean of students, said. “The moments, the picture taking, putting that cap and gown on and throwing your hat up in the air — these are rights of passage that we want to make sure that every Bobcat experiences.” 

While commencement is a momentous occasion, it means just as much for the students' families who have supported them through their college experiences. 

“It means a lot to my family, especially my mom. She's also a nurse and I believe my grandma's gonna come down,” Rohrbach said. “I'm going to be a third-generation nurse, and it's going to mean a lot to them to see me walk and graduate.” 

The announcement for a change in commencement plans came at the right time for seniors who may have been losing the motivation to finish out the virtual school year strong. 

“I think about the last four years that I spent at OU, and it's been a hard four years,” Sander said. “And then this past year with everything virtual, to have something in-person to celebrate is giving me the motivation to go above and beyond.”

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