UT seniors share thoughts on first virtual graduation ceremony

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Photo Credit: Rocky Higine | Daily Texan Staff

For senior Moises Gomez-Cortez, graduation was supposed to celebrate the sacrifices his family made when immigrating from Mexico to the United States. Now, Gomez-Cortez will graduate virtually from his home after hearing his name called from a computer.

Forced to postpone its in-person graduation due to COVID-19, UT will host its first virtual Universitywide commencement ceremony Saturday, May 23, according to the UT commencement website. The University plans to host a graduation on campus later in the year, according to a message from President Gregory Fenves.

“This year, this semester (and) this month was supposed to be filled with celebration, fun and getting to see my friends for the last time,” said Gomez-Cortez. 

Gomez-Cortez, a first-generation college student who studied management information systems, said he was looking forward to his family visiting from Mexico and celebrating his new job at Microsoft. Despite this, Gomez-Cortez said he loves that his graduating class will share this historical event for the rest of their lives.

“We'll all have this experience to look back to and say we all experienced our graduations from home,” Gomez-Cortez said.

Kinesiology senior Chelsea Curry said she will miss out on UT graduation traditions such as the burnt orange lighting of the Tower and the fireworks released from the Main Mall. 

“Although it's understandable why we had to do it, it’s disappointing because walking across the stage is a big deal,” Curry said.

Computational engineering senior Andrew Pye said although virtual graduation feels unconventional, it provides a platform for his family living outside of Texas to see him graduate.

“With my initial reaction (of virtual graduation), I was just making jokes about it,” Pye said. “But now, my sister in North Carolina (and) extended family … can more easily join in for the graduation, which is pretty meaningful to me.”

Kara Markert, a corporate communication senior, said it is impossible to simulate the experience of walking across a graduation stage.

“I always imagined my graduation at the Frank Erwin Center (on) a really pretty (and) exciting day,” Markert said. “We would sit through a two-hour ceremony … and go out to eat afterwards.”

 

Religious studies and neuroscience senior Nishita Pondugula said she understands the postponement is necessary but is disappointed she cannot celebrate years of hard work with her friends in person.

“You're not going to get to walk the stage and accept your diploma from the dean, which is something so symbolic,” Pondugula said. “It means (getting) closure in the place you’ve been studying (at) for the past four years (next to) the people you’ve been studying with.”

Pondugula said she never received her cap and gown or took her graduation photos. She said she is just hopeful the University will keep its promise of hosting an in-person graduation.

“It was such a small amount of time that was taken away from UT compared to the rest of the three years we had at UT,” Pondugula said. “Most of my friends will be tuning in, as well as my fellow graduating seniors, so there is a sense of community around even though everyone is so far apart.”