Last updated on April 29, 2020
By Luis Quintanilla
In an unprecedented move, Volunteer State Community College has canceled its in-person May Commencement Ceremony in the face of the evolving situation of COVID-19. The college will now hold a virtual ceremony May 16, where all graduates are encouraged to participate by submitting a photo, video clip and or message that will appear on a personalized slide during the virtual ceremony.
This decision comes in response to the growing spread of COVID-19, where its cases both globally, nationally and statewide have surged in the past 3 weeks. At the onset of the outbreak, health officials warned against of gatherings more than 10 people given the infectiousness of the virus, so in-person classes were cancelled in response and campus was effectively shut down.
At first, the college had not cancelled commencement as stated in a email sent out to students on March 17th. However, the college then announced a day later that commencement would not take place in-person.
According to Amber Reagan, graduation associate at Vol State, this decision came under the college’s Crisis Management Team. This team consists of President Jerry Faulkner, Vice Presidents, Chief of Campus Police and Security, managers and directors of departments including Environmental Health and Safety, Maintenance, Human Resources and Public Relations.
“The Crisis Management Team has been meeting regularly since COVID-19 became a global pandemic and have been making necessary decisions, including cancelling the in-person Commencement Ceremony, to make sure Vol State reacts accordingly to protect the health and safety of our students, employees, and community,” stated Reagan.
Reagan stated the decision to go a step further to cancel an in-person ceremony came clear after more was learned about the evolving situation. “The college has had to act accordingly as the circumstances continued to develop. The increasing number of cases in the nation and specifically in Tennessee have resulted in more aggressive actions to stop the spread of the virus, including canceling all in-person activities through the remainder of the spring semester,” said Reagan.
Although commencement is a valued tradition at Vol State admitted Reagan, she reaffirmed that safety was of higher priority. “For that reason, it was a necessary decision and honestly unavoidable given the current conditions,” she said.
This will be the first in-person ceremony Vol State has had to cancel and its first virtual one according to Reagan. Students who had intended to walk across the stage this May, have the opportunity to do so by participating the December ceremony. “All spring graduates, including those that participate in the virtual ceremony, will receive an email in October with instructions on how to sign-up to participate in the December ceremony,” stated Reagan.
Reagan also gave details regarding the virtual ceremony and what it will entail. The ceremony will take place on May 16 and will be available on the college’s graduation page at www.volstate.edu/graduation. “There will be an intro clip with pre-recorded speeches from the President and a few other speakers. Each spring graduation applicant will be encouraged to participate in the ceremony by submitting a photo, video clip, and/or message that will appear on a personalized slide. The speeches and graduate slides will be available to view as a whole ceremony and there will also be an option to search for individual slides,” explained Reagan.
More details for students on how to participate will be sent to their emails during April and the first week of May, so Reagan encourages students to regularly check their student emails.
Reagan strongly encourages all eligible students to participate. Although the ceremony is not traditional and a sudden change, Reagan still holds, “It is a great opportunity for students to celebrate their academic accomplishment.” She finishes by saying, “It’s an experience that you can incorporate into a private celebration and you’ll also have the opportunity to share your individual slide with family and friends via social media. We encourage our faculty and staff to watch the virtual ceremony, share it on social media, and to reach out to graduates to congratulate them on a job well done! Let’s embrace this moment to be part of something positive and celebrate the Spring 2020 graduating class together!”