A student points off to someone in the crowd at the 2019 graduation ceremony while graduates from the College of Natural Resources and Sciences settle in on May 18,2019 at the Redwood Bowl. | Photo by Thomas Lal

HSU plans limited in person graduation with online audience

HSU plans for an in-person spring commencement
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HSU plans on holding in-person commencement ceremonies for the class of 2021 through a two day event that will have three ceremonies, one for each college.

Graduating HSU student Shira Kershner, is excited to get her diploma in person.

“I was thrilled to see that Humboldt State will be holding a student-only, in-person commencement ceremony this year,” Kershner said. “Although I wish my family could be there to cheer me on, it offers us all a chance to get some closure and to experience what it’s like to walk across the stage and receive a diploma. With the pandemic I didn’t expect to have any sort of in-person ceremony, and this is much better than nothing.”

While the school is opening up more in person activities, a lot of classes will remain closed or limited in order to stick to state and county guidelines. Both the commencement ceremony and the upcoming in person classes will require face masks, social distancing, and recommended self wellness checks.

While COVID-19 still remains a large concern, Kristen Gould, commencement coordinator and the director of marketing at HSU, says that the school has taken significant steps to limit the possibility of any infection.

“All plans for commencement ceremonies are based on state guidelines for commencement in addition to our own stringent measures to keep our students, and any employee who may need to support the event, as safe as possible,” Gould said. “Those steps include limiting the number of people in the Bowl, spreading out multiple ceremonies over two days, and making sure that students wear masks and stay physically distanced.”

The school’s lockdown has been loosening gradually as more and more vaccines are available and the county returns to the red tier. Humboldt County has had a very low number of cases and has remained relatively isolated from the bigger surges that are seen in other parts of the country.

According to Cris Koczera, the interim director of risk management and safety services at HSU, despite the loosening of restrictions, the school is still proceeding with caution to avoid a possible rise in infections.

“While we’re all excited for the return of in-person commencement ceremonies, most events are canceled at least through the summer,” Koczera said. “Of course that could change, depending on many factors, and the university continually revisits and occasionally adjusts its operational plans based on what’s safest and what makes most sense for our campus community in consultation with Humboldt County Public Health.”

While plenty of students are still remaining cautious, a lack of any kind of normal college experience has been draining for many. The move to hold an in-person commencement ceremony is a return to some sort of normalcy during a stressful semester.

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