This weekend, 3,046 graduates will conclude their Grand Valley State University degree with a virtual commencement. Graduates and their supporters are encouraged to watch the 30-minute ceremony that will take place virtually April 30.
The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will have the most graduating seniors with 1,151 students, followed by the Seidman College of Business with 600 graduating seniors. The undergraduate major with the most graduating students is marketing and the most graduate students are from the social work program.
GVSU came up with a solution this semester to allow graduates a safe opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments in person. All graduates have been assigned a time on May 1 where they can walk the stage at the GVSU Fieldhouse Arena for a photo opportunity. Four guests per graduate will be allowed in person but the event will be livestreamed for others to watch remotely.
The class of 2021 has shown mixed feelings towards the format of the winter 2021 commencement.
Alexandra Weaver is graduating with a double major in secondary education and Spanish. Weaver plans to watch the virtual commencement on Friday and she will walk across the stage in person on Saturday. She said she plans to invite some friends to come with her on Saturday, but she didn’t want to have to ask her family to drive to GVSU for the in-person portion of commencement.
Weaver compared GVSU’s plan for commencement to the plans of larger Michigan universities who were able to organize fully in-person ceremonies for students.
“I was a little disappointed at GVSU for not trying to organize something a little bit more fulfilling for the students,” Weaver said.
Senior Emily Hermann is graduating with a degree in biology with an emphasis in ecology and evolutionary biology. She plans to watch the online commencement on Friday. She and her parents are also going to participate in the in-person commencement on Saturday.
Throughout her four years at GVSU, Hermann was very active on campus, especially with the Frederik Meijer Honors College. After joining as a member her freshman year, Hermann became president of the ANCHOR Honors Council for her junior and senior years. She also worked on the Honors Curriculum Development Committee and the programming board of the honors college.
For some GVSU students, living on-campus is a very valuable experience and helps build long-lasting friendships. Hermann lived on campus her freshman and sophomore year and has remained friends with some of the people she met while living on campus. Not only has she maintained these friendships, but she is currently roommates with a few of them.
“Some of my fondest memories include having the opportunities to make those friendships and be some close to them all the time which really helped with the development of those friendships,” Hermann said.
On-campus living also opens up the opportunity for upperclassmen to be resident assistants. Weaver was a resident assistant her junior and senior year and she looks back at it as some of her best college experiences.
“It was cool to be able to provide some mentorship and also have friendships with a wide variety of students across campus,” Weaver said.
For the class of 2021, senior year may not have been exactly what they expected. Classes ranged from online to a fully in-person format for many students. While Hermann said this was a difficult transition when online classes first began, she was able to somewhat adapt to the routine by the time her last semester came.
“I definitely got used to it, but it’s not easy,” Hermann said.
GVSU prepares students in a variety of different ways as they head into their next steps after graduation. Beginning the week after graduation, Hermann has a job with Pfizer already lined up.
“I think the way Grandy Valley has prepared me the most for something like, besides education, is being able to form faculty relationships,” Hermann said.
While she understands that going to faculty’s office hours can be intimidating, she valued the way in which GVSU offered other ways that students can create relationships with faculty. Some of the faculty Hermann noted as being especially beneficial to her college experience were chemistry Professor Sarah Clark, biomedical sciences Professor Cynthia Thompson and honors academic and enrichment Advisor Meg Marshall.
“Through different opportunities at GVSU I was able to make faculty connections which were really helpful,” Hermann said. “Faculty are an amazing resource for looking for jobs and they are also amazing references.”
More information on the Winter 2021 graduation can be found at gvsu.edu/commencement.