NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - Stephen F. Austin State University announced they will have in-person commencement ceremonies this December. Included in that decision are May and August graduates who are invited to attend. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, ceremonies this past May and August were held virtually.
“I didn’t think it was going to happen so soon,” Angelica Castillo said.
Castillo graduated virtually this spring from SFA with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. She says she thought she wouldn’t be able to walk across the stage until next spring.
“For the virtual graduation that we had, I didn’t feel like it was fulfilling,” Castillo said. “Especially since I spent five years in college, I felt like it wouldn’t be completed if I didn’t get to walk the stage.”
Provost and Vice President Steve Bullard says after much discussion, the university wanted their students to have that in-person experience.
“Especially when you look at closing that term, graduating, and getting that diploma," Bullard said. "We know that that closure is important, not only to the student but to their families and everyone who is invested in their success. We’ve been apart of that and so have their families.”
As of now, five in-person commencement ceremonies are scheduled for Friday and Saturday, December 11 and 12. But university officials say they will look a little different than in years past.
“All of the health safety protocols will be followed,” Bullard said.
Bullard says seating at William R. Johnson Coliseum will be adjusted for social distancing, and all attendees must wear a face mask.
“We will not have a regular commencement speaker because there will be five separate events," he said. "We would be asking someone to speak five different times. But we will have a worthy message for them and a wonderful sendoff.”
Bullard says about 250 students are scheduled for each ceremony. He says tickets for the ceremonies are free, but the university will make sure there is not overcrowding to maintain spacing.
“Each student can request up to six tickets for family members," Bullard said. "Anyone above 5 years old would need a ticket.”
Castillo and her husband, who also graduated this past spring, plan to attend.
“I thought maybe it’s a little too soon, but at the same time I’m pretty excited about finally being able to do that and not having to wait an entire year of course,” Castillo said.
Click here for more information about SFA’s December commencement and to register.