Most Cal Poly 2021 graduates accepted that their senior year milestones would be held virtually — just as the rest of their senior year had been. With these low expectations, President Jeffrey Armstrong’s announcement of a potential modified in-person commencement came as a “nice surprise,” senior Kaitlin Lynch said.

If San Luis Obispo moves to the orange, “moderate” tier of California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, Cal Poly will host modified in-person commencement ceremonies for 2021 graduates in addition to an official virtual ceremony, Armstrong announced in an April 15 email to seniors.

The university would host six separate in-person ceremonies for the six college departments on June 12 and 13 in Spanos Stadium. These events would be modified and would primarily focus on the stage crossing opportunity for graduates. Each expected graduate would receive two guest tickets and the event would be live-streamed for supporters who cannot attend due to the limited capacity. 

This announcement follows guidelines set forth by California Public Health Department. 

Teresa Barnes, a winter 2021 business administration graduate, said she set her experience expectations low for senior year. 

“I didn’t really see much light at the end of the tunnel,” Barnes said. “Now I’m kind of looking forward to hopefully having some sort of commencement.”

Barnes’ four roommates are also business administration seniors, meaning they will all get to experience graduation together — how they imagined they would prior to the pandemic. 

“I think we were excited that we would get to walk but also definitely just like a little stressed out, but now we had to plan on like our families coming to town and trying to organize that,” Barnes said.

For Kaitlin Lynch, a graduating recreation, parks and tourism administration senior, the shift to virtual learning has made her college experience feel incomplete. However, Lynch said the opportunity for in-person commencement will bring a sense of normalcy and comradery back. 

“I think it’ll make [college] end on a really strong note,” Lynch said. “Because despite everything going on, obviously, the people I’m graduating with are the people I’ve been around for the last four years.” 

Lynch said that since she is an only child, this opportunity is also a once in a lifetime experience for her parents as well. Lynch’s extended family will also make the trip up to San Luis Obispo to celebrate her graduation and will watch the ceremony via livestream. 

Both Barnes and Lynch expressed that the last year and a half were not what they were expecting for their college experience, but this ceremony offers some sense of normalcy to cap off their time at Cal Poly. 

“This is definitely a more final way to commemorate our years at Cal Poly and how much hard work we actually put into it,” Barnes said. 

The university is also planning for a ceremony event to honor 2020 graduates in December 2021. More information about this is expected to be released in July.

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