Durham, NH — For many students, spring semester calls for going to the ski mountain during the weekends or applying for summer internships. For seniors, it normally means applying for jobs, declaring their minors, and walking across the stage in front of the large crowd of their peers, family, friends and faculty. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic prevented most students from getting the college ending that they deserved, but on Feb. 3 an email was sent to seniors explaining basic plans for an in-person graduation.  

The University of New Hampshire’s (UNH) Class of 2020 were unable to attend a physical commencement event because of COVID-19. As a result of the sudden change of environment, UNH, along with most universities, was forced to celebrate commencement virtually.  

However, the ample amount of time during summer and winter break allowed UNH to equip themselves with the knowledge and skills to navigate the pandemic while still giving their college students the experience that they deserve. Apart from orchestrating a rigorous COVID-19 testing program which allows students to attend in-person classes, UNH is planning to continue their physical commencement event this year. 

Although the email regarding the university’s plans for commencement this spring stated that the “plans are based on the best information we (UNH) have today regarding the coronavirus but that could change,” it definitely gave UNH seniors the hope of having a proper ending to their college life.  

According to the email, the commencement ceremony for UNH’s Class of 2021 will be as follows; graduate students: Sunday, May 16 at 10 a.m.; College of Health and Human Services: Friday, May 21 at 10 a.m.; College of Engineering and Physical Science (CEPS) and College of Life Science and Agriculture (COLSA): Friday, May 21 at 4 p.m.; Paul College of Business and Economics (PAUL): Saturday, May 22 at 10 a.m.; and College of Liberal Arts (COLA): Saturday, May 22 at 4 p.m. 

Additionally, “each student will receive two tickets for guests to attend the ceremony,” according to the email. Ticketing will open in March. Students who are eager to graduate can purchase their graduation gown and cap now at www.buildagrad.com/unh. Seniors now can also keep up with the latest update regarding the commencement event at unh.edu/commencement.  

“I was very excited when I received the email!” said senior political science major Raymond Staples. Though UNH is planning for the event to be in a smaller capacity with some restrictions, Staples felt very fortunate to have the opportunity to be recognized for his years of hard work. “Especially because this chance was stripped away from the Class of 2020 last year,” he added.  

Staples strongly believes that this event will definitely take place in May. “New Hampshire is a small state and so the COVID-19 cases aren’t as high as some other states. Also, with the amount of vaccines rolling out, we will be back to normal in no time,” said Staples.  

When asked about the importance of the commencement ceremony to him, Staples was adamant that graduation is the time for parents to be proud of their children’s hard work and academic achievements. “Our entire life, we have been going to schools near our homes and so we would see our parents every day or every weekend. But in college, we can’t see our parents as often. Graduation allows them to be proud of us!” he said.  

Contrarily, senior computer science major Brendan Therrien feels neutral about the exciting news. “I’m not someone who is super excited about this kind of thing, but I’d rather have it than not at all,” he said. Therrien is confident that this planned event will take place as “UNH is doing a good job in keeping the campus running smoothly and efficiently.” He added, “I think they can easily do it.”  

Therrien said that he would not be too sad if the event ended up not happening, but he believes that having a commencement ceremony is important to students as graduating from college is “an important milestone in your life.”  

Whether or not UNH will continue with their plan of having a commencement ceremony in May, is up to the situation regarding the COVID-19 outbreak to determine it. Nonetheless, this email is definitely the spark of hope that seniors needed for them to work harder while remaining safe and healthy during their final semester. 

Photo courtesy of UNH Media.