ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — On Saturday, the University of South Florida held two of their first in-person graduation ceremonies since December of 2019, before the pandemic began.
The university worked hand-in-hand with their own experts over at USF Health to be able to safely hold the in-person ceremonies. Part of that meant moving it to a larger facility, Tropicana Field, which allowed greater social distancing, and they required masks for those inside.
But the graduates were just happy to be there after the long year they’ve had.
“It was definitely hard. I think it kind of taught me a lot of how to adapt in tough situations. It definitely taught me a lot about safety and taking my health for granted and everything,” said Brianna McMillen, who graduated with a degree in biomedical sciences.
About 7,200 degrees were awarded in the spring 2021 class, including 5,206 undergraduate, 1,691 master’s, 289 doctoral and 12 specialist’s degrees.
Around 3,000 of those graduates attended one of USF’s two different Saturday ceremonies.
Instead of having the graduates walk across the stage when their name was called, they just had them stand at their seat.
“Even though we can’t walk across the stage we can still have our names announced. A lot of my friends graduated last year during COVID, and they didn’t get to have a graduation, so I’m just thankful to have something,” said McMillen.
The university says they also intend to honor graduates from spring 2020, summer 2020 and fall 2020 who were unable to participate in person due to COVID-19. They plan to schedule a date for a more traditional commencement for those graduates when COVID-19 restrictions can be reduced.