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Commencement ceremony tradition returns to VSU

Published: Dec. 10, 2021 at 8:02 PM EST
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VALDOSTA, Ga. (WALB) - A graduation ceremony tradition is back on track for Valdosta State University (VSU).

The university’s 232nd commencement ceremony will return to the front lawn after hosting it at Bazemore-Hyder stadium for almost two years, following COVID-19 protocols.

A sea of chairs is filling up the entire front lawn at VSU.

A sea of chairs is filling up the entire front lawn at VSU.
A sea of chairs is filling up the entire front lawn at VSU.(WALB)

More than 1,500 undergraduate and graduate students will be celebrating a milestone in their lives.

With as many guests as they want to be able to attend, accompanying them on their big day.

President of the Student Government Association Jalen Smith said this ceremony is a special one for everyone.

“Returning to a normal graduation and if anybody knows anything about a Valdosta State commencement, it’s one of the best commencements in the nation,” said Smith.

A reputation for its graduation celebrations, Smith said he’s glad VSU graduates will be able to experience this once again, the correct way.

“Our commencement is a marker for students to look forward to, from their freshman year until they complete their degree. Being able to do our commencement the way we traditionally do it, it’s a very special thing for us,” said Smith.

Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Robert Smith said the front lawn is a special symbol at VSU.

“For us, the front lawn is the symbol of Valdosta State University. Our students are out here during the semester, playing frisbee and football on the front lawn and it is the iconic view of our first building, West Hall, and our iconic dome. It’s the symbol of Valdosta State,” said Smith.

Band music, keynote speakers and fireworks and everything in between will be included like previous traditional ceremonies have had.

Marisa Delfina Kimberlee Lauer is graduating on Saturday as the top student in the college of...
Marisa Delfina Kimberlee Lauer is graduating on Saturday as the top student in the college of the arts. She’s going to be representing her department on stage.(WALB)

Marisa Delfina Kimberlee Lauer is graduating on Saturday as the top student in the college of the arts. She’s going to be representing her department on stage.

Since she was a little girl, Lauer knew what she wanted to be when she grew up.

Her passion for dancing came when she was just 4-years-old and her mom took her to see “The Nutcracker” for the first time.

“I was memorized. I was a little kid watching a story come true. It was so magical,” said Lauer.

Soon after that, her mom signed her up for dance classes.

“And the rest is history,” said Lauer.

All through school, she continued dancing, specifically ballet.

Coming from New Port Richey, Fla., Lauer received a postcard in the mail about VSU during her college search for dance programs.

After visiting the campus., she knew this was where she belonged.

Lauer said she’s excited to be graduating and glad to have her family be able to join her on her special day.

“I think no matter what it is, just go for it. I know a lot of people are like, ‘oh, you’re majoring in dance. What is that going to do? You don’t really have a career in that. It doesn’t last a long time, you’re not going to make a lot of money,’” Lauer said. “All that stuff, but I was just like, ‘you know what, I’m doing exactly what I wanted to do from the very first start.’ I have this passion that I wouldn’t have for anything else and I think that’s the important thing when choosing a career path and I just want everyone to know you can do it.”

As for what’s next, Lauer plans to audition for contemporary ballet companies around the U.S. with hopes of performing for several years, and then possibly becoming a dance instructor.

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