In-person graduations return to Saint Ignatius Church

Editor’s note: This is an updated reprint of an article that ran on our website for the Nov. 18 issue.

The last in-person graduation ceremony held in December 2019. PHOTO COURTESY OF USF OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS

USF recently announced it will hold an in-person ceremony and celebration on April 8, 2022 for graduates of the class of fall 2020 and spring 2021. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, graduates from these classes were unable to participate in the traditional walk-through at St. Ignatius Church. However, next spring, the recent alums will finally get their opportunity to cap off their college careers with the pomp and extravagance of a traditional commencement ceremony. 

Kellie Samson, head of USF media relations, provided further information about this announcement in an email to the Foghorn. The April celebration will include “traditional commencement ceremonies, complete with a platform party of administrators, faculty, and trustees, and students in regalia receiving their diplomas from Fr. Fitzgerald as their names are read,” Samson said.

Carolyn Jatul, a spring 2021 graduate, said she is glad that there will be an in-person ceremony for her because “it means a lot to be celebrated on campus in the church and recognized and reconnect with professors and fellow classmates.”

The ceremony is still in its late planning stages, but more details will be released by January once attending graduates have been confirmed by Dec. 15. The University said, “The number of graduates who indicate that they plan to attend will determine the number of ceremonies and the number of guest tickets available.” 

The University clarified that the ceremony will follow city and county public health guidelines, including proof of full vaccination for whoever will be in St. Ignatius Church.

Jatul said she expects some form of social distancing and mask wearing while inside; however, the recent graduate said she is “going for sure and would love it to be as ceremonial and performed similarly to other years with guest speakers and individual departments.” 

“The promise made to these graduates was that the University would host in-person ceremonies for them when it is safe to do so,” Samson said. “We are delighted to now be able to welcome these alumni back to campus to celebrate their accomplishments and perseverance.”

The University’s commencement working group, which includes faculty representatives and staff from all USF schools and programs, recommended the ceremony be held in April. Samson said numerous factors went into the decision to hold the ceremony on April 8, including the church’s availability, and providing enough time for event planning and for graduates and their families to make arrangements. 

The plans for an in-person, but scaled-back, commencement ceremonies will make their first return after two years with the upcoming winter commencement ceremonies in December for winter graduates. 

Guidelines and protocols for the December 16-17 graduation ceremonies have been released. As tradition, the commencement will also be held in St. Ignatius Church, but at a reduced capacity. 

Each graduate is only allowed to invite two guests and there will not be any overflow seating areas available at the ceremony. Guest tickets are not for sale or resale, and candidates found selling guest tickets will have their degree withheld until the next conferral period. Additionally, all guests are required to wear a mask at all times and show proof of vaccination status. Unvaccinated guests 2 and older are required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test, administered within the past 72 hours, to enter the church. 

Senior psychology student, Kobi Miller, who will be graduating this semester said it has been a struggle to decide which family member gets to go given the limited tickets available. “It’s a bit unfortunate, especially for families of color and first-generation students,” Miller said. However, she added that given the circumstances, and with recent classes not having the opportunity to walk for graduation, “we’re grateful to even have one.”

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