VALDOSTA, Ga. (WALB) -Valdosta State University (VSU) will celebrate their 229th Commencement on a virtual stage this Saturday and everyone’s invited.
“Our students mean so much to us. That’s why we do everything we do and so it was a no brainer to know that we had to celebrate them,” said Dr. Robert Smith, Vice President for Academic Affairs.
When safety protocols were put in place to avoid large crowds, Valdosta State University administrators began to discuss how they would honor students if it couldn’t be in person. They discussed a delay in the ceremony but ultimately decided the students still deserve something special on their marked day.
So they put together a committee and began to work. Preparations looked quite different than normal. They wanted the virtual ceremony to have the same look and feel of a normal commencement.
Everything leading up to the day was prerecorded, but it’s not going to be just a video. There are interactions and participation involved.
Just like a typical ceremony, invitations were sent out, inviting students to join the virtual stage on May 9.
“It was really surprising, we couldn’t believe it. We were like ‘oh my gosh we really not going to have a Spring commencement this year.’ It was very hard at first to take in,” said Amea Thompson.
Thompson is from Springfield and will be graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communication and a minor in Advertising and Promotions.
“It was almost a feeling of loss and a little bit devastation. VSU commencement is one of our favorite most special traditions and its an experience on the frontline that we all look forward too," said Jacob Bell.
Bell is from Baxley and he is graduating with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Economics and an Honors College Certificate.
Thompson and Bell will be delivering the undergraduate ceremony commencement address.
At first, they were sad about the news but then felt grateful at the idea that at least they have a way to celebrate on their special day.
“You can’t virtually recreate but what we do on the frontlines but what you can do and what the university has done is provided us a way with the people closest to us, to mark the milestone and celebrate the achievement on the appropriate day,” said Bell.
The grads tell us their celebration involves lots of snacks, cakes, and a group of friends and family. But not only with family in the area, but also with extended family that wouldn’t be able to come to an in-person commencement ceremony. They tell us that is an unexpected positive.
More than 1,500 candidates for graduation will be recognized during the ceremony.
The university also plans to give their graduates a special recognition during Homecoming 2020 in the fall and an invitation to walk the stage with the fall graduates in December.