ISU plans In-person graduation ceremony

Idaho State University is planning extensive COVID-19 precautions to hold an in-person graduation ceremony on April 24. This photo shows a past commencement ceremony.

Idaho State University is planning an in-person graduation ceremony on April 24 and also plans to resume in-person instruction in fall 2021, according to Stuart Summers, associate vice president for marketing and communications at ISU.

The in-person graduation ceremony took considerable planning and preparation to ensure the safety of the graduates and the limited number of spectators that will be allowed to attend. But it’s worth it.

“We felt it was important to celebrate our grads, and they worked hard to get their degrees and we want to recognize their accomplishments,” Summers said.

It was vital to create a safe way to celebrate, which they found by collaborating with the local health district.

“We worked with the health district to do this in a way that would promote safety and well-being,” Summers said.

So there will be no mass processional, and there will be no traditional handshakes or hugging or holding.

“They’ll just be one-at-a time walking across the stage with their names read,” he said. “We have things in place to prevent people from getting in contact and things of that nature.”

The precautions will keep people better spread out during the ceremonies, according to Summers.

And toward that end there will be three separate ceremonies at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. to help speed things along.

Summers says graduates will be on the field in chairs and spaced out by 6 feet each, and everyone in attendance will be wearing masks.

Plus, a select number of friends can be there with the graduates.

“We recognize that this is the most important day for our graduates — this is the culmination of their hard work over many years,” Summers said.

The increasing availability of the COVID-19 vaccine made it possible to take those steps for the ceremony.

But ISU officials are prepared if the pandemic should worsen, he said.

“If there’s a huge increase in cases or the state situation changes then we’re ready to pivot and make the changes as needed,” Summers said.

For now, they’re excited.

“We’re trying to be cognizant that people feel safe,” he said. “But we want them to have that moment of walking cross the stage and hearing their name read.”

And if this arrangement doesn’t work for some graduates, or doesn’t work with how they would like to celebrate, they will be invited to the commencement for the next year.

“So we’re trying to be flexible and working with our graduates because at the end of the day what’s important is celebrating their accomplishments,” Summers said.

He’s unsure yet just how many graduates will attend the in-person commencement. Usually about 2,000 students graduate each year. But many live outside the area, or have jobs that take them elsewhere, so typically about half of the graduates attend in any given year.

Summers says people generally understand the precautions and are excited about being able to even have the graduation this year, after missing out last year.

He says the graduates will wear the traditional caps and gowns.

“This is going to be an awesome ceremony to celebrate their accomplishments,” he said. “And we’re making sure it will be memorable.”

The event will even include some video elements.

“It will be a very memorable and special event,” he said.

And overall, Summers said the school year has gone well.

“So far the school year has been successful on delivering on our mission of education,” he said.

And he believes an active screening effort and wearing of masks played a key role in ISU’s success.

But everyone looks forward to a time when they won’t be needed.

“We look forward to getting back to the things that we all miss,” Summers said.

Meanwhile, the rising availability of COVID-19 vaccines has allowed the university to return to in-person instruction and campus activities in fall 2021.

And ISU President Kevin Satterlee said that health officials will continue to monitor public health guidance as they work to create cooperation plans with health and safety in mind.

Still, he urges continued use of face coverings, social distancing, hand-washing, reporting symptoms and other measures.

“The university is also ready to re-evaluate plans if public health guidance evolves or changes,” Satterlee said.

But he welcomes and applauds the news about vaccine distribution.

He says it allows the university to safely transition back to in-person learning and to provide the full college experience that students want and expect.

It also allows the university to celebrate campus traditions and activities that bring everyone closer as a Bengal community, Satterlee said.

Still, everyone needs to remain aware of the pandemic.

“We all must remain vigilant as we focus on a return to on-campus operations,” Satterlee said.