SDSU holds virtual commencement instead of traditional graduation ceremony

Posted at 4:36 PM, May 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-16 20:13:38-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV)-- San Diego State University held a short virtual commencement ceremony for their graduates on Saturday. While students were proud of their accomplishments, many said graduation during the coronavirus era was just not the same.

John Younan was one of the students participating in Saturday's virtual ceremony. Instead of taking a seat with his graduating class, he was spotted taking photos of an empty San Diego State University campus.

"[We have to] make do with what we can with the circumstances."

He was back at school with his friends, looking the part and talking the talk, but not walking the walk.

"We're just taking pictures, trying to get a feel for it," the Master's graduate said. "As long as we do something in honor of our graduating."

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, this year's 10,500 graduates are not getting a traditional graduation. Instead, the school ran a 20-minute virtual commencement ceremony - a live video with messages from staff and notable alumni.

"Congratulations on your accomplishments and your future success!" said SDSU President Adela de la Torre.

"During these crazy times, stay focused but flexible, and you will persevere and succeed," said Ron Dowler, co-owner of the San Diego Padres and SDSU '05 D.H.L.

"I welcome you to the large group of Aztec alumni!" said Ellen Ochoa, astronaut and former director of the NASA Johnson Space Center.

Associated Students President, Christian L. Onwuka, SDSU '20, addressed his fellow graduates and moved his tassel from right to left at the end of the ceremony.

But graduate Luis Arce did not even take the day off of work on this would-have-been special day.

"It's not as meaningful as walking across the stage," the Bachelor's graduate said.

Both Arce and Younan skipped watching the virtual ceremony, saying it just was not the same.

"I am not too much of a fan of the virtual ceremony thing," Younan said. "I've already sat through a lot of zoom lectures, and it was already hard enough as it is, so maybe stay away from zoom and come here to do it in person."

Neighboring California State University San Marcos had their graduates pick up their diplomas during their car parade on Friday. Arce said something like that would have made it more memorable.

"That would've been probably a little bit cooler to have all that done, and have your family just drive by," Arce said.

Today is a bittersweet moment in these graduates' lives. But these they know that the lack of a ceremony does not overshadow their esteemed accomplishments.

"We finally got it done, and that's what matters," Arce said. "Missing out on the ceremony does kind of suck, but overall, we know it didn't change the work that we did."

This year's SDSU graduates will have the option to participate in a postponed in-person ceremony in either December or May of next year.