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Plans to honor graduates with a traditional graduation ceremony

With life constantly adjusting to new COVID-19 protocols, a plan for a graduation ceremony has been ever-changing.

After thoughtful consideration by administration, graduating students are set to have six different in-person ceremonies separated by college the weekend of May 15 and 16 at Shea Stadium, with an additional ceremony on Friday, May 14 for 2020 graduates.

Kathy Peters, the special events coordinator at Bradley, said the administration debated on many different options regarding how to proceed with commencement. While COVID-19 protocols were important in the planning process, Peters said sufficiently honoring graduates was also extremely important.

“At the end of the day, the safety of the Bradley community is always at the forefront of our mind,” Peters said. “But [we are] also wanting to honor our graduates in the most traditional way possible with the means that we have.”

To align with social distancing guidelines and capacity limits, students are allowed to have four guests that will be sitting in pods throughout the stadium six feet apart in every direction from all other pods. Additionally, attendees and graduates must wear a mask from the time of their arrival to the time of their departure; graduates’ only exception to this rule is when taking their official commencement photo.

When students were first informed of the in-person graduation plans in March, they were told only two guests would be allowed per person. At the time, the university was trying to figure out a way for students to invite more guests but didn’t have a set plan yet.

“We were hopeful that we could host more tickets, but we didn’t want to say we were hoping for more without having a plan,” Peters said. “We didn’t want to promise anything that we couldn’t fulfill.”

Coming up with a safe plan for commencement came after observing other schools’ plans, taking in student input and most importantly, following safety guidelines, according to Peters.

Additionally, fall 2020 and spring 2020 graduates that didn’t have an in-person who respectively had a virtual ceremony and a video recognition, are getting an opportunity to have a formal ceremony with their peers. According to Peters, over 200 students from previous semesters are planning to attend.

With all of these changes, Peters and the rest of the Bradley administration are hoping students will feel fulfilled and celebrated with the graduation ceremony currently planned.

John Sherman, a senior graduating with a management information systems major, said he would’ve understood if the graduation ceremony had to be virtual, but is thankful to have the chance to be in-person.

“I’m excited about an in person graduation because accepting my diploma at a formal graduation ceremony makes the experience much more memorable for my family and I,” Sherman said.

Plans for the in-person ceremonies may still change as a result of inclement weather or last-minute changes in state guidelines, according to university spokesperson Renee Charles.

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