GV prepares to hold commencements at Van Andel Arena


GVL / Max Ritchie

Grace Smith, Staff Writer

For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic sent Grand Valley State University students home in March of 2020, GVSU’s commencement ceremonies will take place at the Van Andel Arena in downtown Grand Rapids. 

Following the success of GVSU’s in-person commencement ceremonies for the fall 2021 semester and the reduction in the university’s COVID-19 alert level, officials have deemed it safe to return to full-size commencement ceremonies. 

Carlee Pepera, a member of the class of 2022, said she acknowledges the privilege of getting to walk in person at the Van Andel Arena after so much turmoil has plagued graduation ceremonies across the country. 

“I’m honestly just so excited that we get to walk,” Pepera said. “I was worried, with how this year started, that we may not get to and began preparing myself that I may not actually have a ceremony at all.”

Pepera said she feels joyful to be finishing her college experience with a return to normalcy. 

“I had friends who graduated during COVID and they didn’t get to walk and I felt terrible that those graduates missed the experience,” Pepera said. “I’m beyond excited that we’ll be able to have a sense of normalcy as we finish college and are able to have this memorable experience.”

However, some graduating students also have conflicted feelings about having a ceremony without additional social distancing and mask requirements. 

Mikaela Brzuchowski said that as these protocols have been a large portion of her college experience, it may feel odd that the culminating experience of her time at GVSU will look so different from her time spent at the university. 

“For me, aside from GVSU being a pretty big school, most of the people I’m graduating with I’ve only known in classrooms that were socially distant and everyone is or was masked,” Brzuchowski said. “It’s just a weird feeling that the lack of a mask requirement is corresponding to feelings that I’m not connected with the people I’m graduating with.”

Regardless, many students are excited to celebrate all of their hard work in the upcoming ceremony. 

“I’ve had a fun four years and I’m glad to be starting a new chapter of my life.” said senior Matthew Wielgolpolski. “It will be nice that my friends and family will be able to be there to celebrate with me.” 

Commencement will take place on April 29 at 7 p.m. for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. 

On Saturday, April 30 at 10 a.m. the College of Health Professions, the Kirkhof College of Nursing and the Seidman College of Business will have their ceremony. 

Commencement for the College of Education and Community Innovation, the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing and Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies will take place on the same day at 3 p.m.

During the ceremony, the deans from each college will be present to welcome students. 

There will be no student processional, but students will still be able to walk across the stage and receive their diplomas. 

Each graduate is able to claim up to eight tickets for their family and friends until April 22, via GVSU’s online ticketing service. Graduates are able to request additional tickets by completing the additional ticket request form.