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USU President Discusses 2021 Commencement Plans

This is Utah Public Radio. I'm Kerry Bringhurst. Joining me today, as we do most week's conversation, with Utah State University President Noelle Cockett. 

And President Cockett, thank you so much for joining us for just maybe an update of the news this week, releasing some information about upcoming commencement. I know last year at this time, wow, you probably feel a little more connected with how to move forward this year than you did last year when it comes to commencements at Utah State University.


NC: Well, it's been a long year if we're remembering what happened last year versus this year. So, yes. We had planned to have a regular graduation with hooding, then college ceremonies and the overall commencement of the university in the Spectrum. And all, you know, those celebrations as we had done in the past. And then March, COVID and everything had to be rethought. 


So, we have a group that really wanted to be able to celebrate the accomplishments of the 2021 graduating class. And, you know, knowing that it had been a big disappointment for the 2020 graduates. Although, we were able to do a surprise package that had their diploma with their diploma cover and, you know, some different swag things. 


So Logan has organized their plan.The statewide campuses will be following along, thinking along how to do it safely, with masks, with social distancing, minimizing off campus visitors, unfortunately, and keeping those ceremonies short so there's not extended exposure and assigned seating. All of these things we know works when you're reducing the risk of infection. And so we’ve combined those into the graduation ceremonies that we've created.


KB: Can you give us an idea of what commencement day might look like on the USU campus? 


NC: So rather than having, you know, 3000 people, graduates, all coming together, as we typically would do here in Logan, there'll be broken up in groups of 60 to 80 graduates by department, by college, whatever makes sense within their unit. The graduates will line up, short distance, in our precessional, with appropriate social distancing with, you know, our music, our traditional bagpipes playing across the speakers. They'll process in, sit in their assigned seat. And there will be a video that will be presented specific for this graduating group, with the Dean of the College and the valedictorian for the college, you know, talking about the accomplishments and how glad we are they've been able to, you know, get to that degree or certificate. And then each student, name and degree, will be read so they can pass across the stage. They will pick up their diploma cover, have a photo taken of them with their diploma, return to their seat, and then the group will process out.


And so in this way, you know, what we know is really important to our graduates, to have that name read and that recognition of the moment when they get that degree. One thing is in keeping with an important part of our safety conditions, there won't be food. So people should eat before they come.


KB: What will this new format of commencement mean for families and supporters of our graduates?


NC: Unfortunately, because that is one of the things that we've done to keep our risk low here, guests will need to participate virtually. The University Commencement Ceremony, that will also be virtual, probably through more of a taping with myself. But we will have honorary degrees.


KB: President Cockett, thank you so much for helping educate us about what will happen with commencements at USU this spring.


NC: Well, thank you so much Kerry. Really appreciate being able to share what we're doing at Utah State.

At 14-years-old, Kerry began working as a reporter for KVEL “The Hot One” in Vernal, Utah. Her radio news interests led her to Logan where she became news director for KBLQ while attending Utah State University. She graduated USU with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and spent the next few years working for Utah Public Radio. Leaving UPR in 1993 she spent the next 14 years as the full time mother of four boys before returning in 2007. Kerry and her husband Boyd reside in Nibley.