Virtual celebrations for spring commencement

Screenshot of virtual commencement page

Students and families can access the virtual ceremonies on this special commencement page.

An estimated 5,094 students are completing their Iowa State degrees this month. Although the COVID-19 pandemic will prevent them from celebrating with each other on campus, university leaders have invited them -- and their families -- to enjoy one of three commencement ceremonies prerecorded to honor them. The three events, for undergraduates, graduate students and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) recipients, all go live at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 9, on the registrar's virtual graduation website. Each is approximately 30 minutes long.

As of May 6, the expected numbers of spring degree recipients are:

  • DVM degree: 138
  • Doctoral degree: 173
  • Master's degree: 484
  • Bachelor's degree: 4,299

"Our spring class of 2020 especially had to sacrifice for the greater good due to the COVID-19 pandemic," said university registrar Jennifer Suchan. "We know we can't be together, but we want to celebrate their momentous achievements while honoring them in a way that's safe for everyone.

"The university community really came together for this purpose. There was so much energy at the table as we considered what we wanted to do for our graduates," she added.

Traditions intact

University leaders recorded many components of the virtual ceremonies in late April on the Stephens Auditorium stage, and IT teams wove them together in the days since. Suchan said many Iowa State commencement traditions are intact in the graduate and undergraduate virtual ceremonies, including:

  • Music and theatre department's F. Wendell Miller Distinguished artist in residence Simon Estes singing the national anthem.
  • Special recognition for college student marshals and students graduating with distinction.
  • Remarks and conferring of degrees by President Wendy Wintersteen.
  • Iowa State-themed music performed by the ISU Brass Ensemble.
  • The Iowa State Singers performing "The Bells of Iowa State."

Veterinary Medicine

The College of Veterinary Medicine confers the DVM once a year in a separate spring ceremony.

Associate dean for academic and student affairs Jared Danielson emcees the virtual ceremony, and the Dr. Stephen G. Juelsgaard Dean of Veterinary Medicine Dan Grooms speaks to the graduates. The commencement address is provided by ISU alumnus Dan Thomson, a third-generation bovine veterinarian and, since April, chair of the animal science department in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Second-year DVM student Anvita Hanchate performs the vocal pieces in the ceremony. Faculty member Amanda Fales-Williams and class president Seth Wilharm lead the graduates in reciting the Veterinarian's Oath.

Recognizing individual students

Because much of an in-person commencement ceremony is devoted to individual moments for graduating students, each of the virtual events also includes this tradition:

  • During the Graduate College ceremony, doctoral and master's candidates' names and majors are displayed.
  • Formal photos introduce each DVM candidate as Danielson reads their names during that college's virtual event.
  • In separate videos for the six undergraduate colleges, Ames-based radio producer Hollis Monroe and landscape architect associate professor Michael Martin read the names of students completing bachelor's degrees as their printed names are displayed, one at a time. Each college dean also honors that college's student marshal. These college videos also will be available on demand Saturday morning.

All spring 2020 graduates also may participate in commencement events on campus, including the hooding tradition for doctoral candidates, either in December or next May.

College virtual convocations

In lieu of their convocations and receptions, the colleges also are prerecording virtual events to recognize and congratulate their students, in many cases at the department level. Colleges asked students to submit photos and information for these recordings. In addition to a website, most colleges will post their materials to a Facebook or Facebook Event site so students can interact in real time.

Commencement souvenirs

In late April, the registrar's office mailed "CYlebration" gift packages to all graduating students that included a souvenir cardinal-and-gold tassel, postcard message from Wintersteen, diploma cover and streamer tube. Within a few weeks of graduation, Suchan said a second mailing to all graduates will include their diploma, commencement program and honor cords for students graduating with distinction.

Lavender Graduation

The ceremony, which honors graduating members of the university's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual and ally community, also will be presented as a virtual celebration. Staff in the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success hope to post the video May 7 (or shortly after) on its website and social media sites.