SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – In just one week, Georgia Southern University will hold its first in-person graduation ceremony since the pandemic began.
University leaders say it was a decision made with both safety and the students in mind. They say they’re following guidance from the Georgia Department of Public Health and have a team internally monitoring community transmission.
“If information comes out that we need to reconsider having in-person commencement,” said Associate Vice President of Enrollment Dr. Amy Ballagh, “and that comes from, of course, the governor’s office through an executive order about the limitations on gatherings, we will certainly do what we need to do and switch our plans.”
Anastasia Franklin, who is studying psychology, will be a first-generation graduate. She’s happy to be nearing the end but says the journey wasn’t easy.
“Growing up, I came from a family that struggled with addiction and things like that,” said Franklin.
“I went into the foster system for a little while, and then my grandma took care of me for the rest of my life and raised me into the woman you see standing here today,” she added.
Like many other students, Franklin worked hard to get here and wants the chance to walk across a stage and accept her diploma.
“It’s such an accomplishment both academically and personally,” said Ballagh, “to be able to provide that when we weren’t able to do that in the spring, it was difficult for everyone.”
“We hated to not have that opportunity to do in-person commencement,” she added.
Ballagh says the decision to hold graduation in person was made with great consideration. She says it’s going to look different than in past years.
Students will be spread out, masks will be required, and guests will be kept to a minimum. She says they are ensuring venues have ample space to allow for a safe ceremony.
Graduates who chose to walk in Savannah are allowed four tickets each, and those who chose Statesboro are allowed eight tickets each.
“It’s essentially up to them if they feel like they want to come and they want to bring guests,” said Ballagh.”The other option, of course, is if they don’t want to bring guests they can still participate and people can watch the livestream.”
Franklin says when the pandemic began, she wasn’t sure an in-person ceremony would be possible.
“Honestly, I am extremely grateful because it allows me and my class to be able to have an opportunity that so many other students didn’t have at the beginning of the year,” said Franklin.
Ballagh says around 400 graduates from the spring and fall semesters will come back and participate in the next week’s ceremonies.
“We look forward to seeing them back,” said Ballagh.
Commencement ceremonies will be at the following times and locations:
Sunday, Dec. 13 – Savannah Convention Center
- 2:00 p.m.- Undergraduates from any college or campus
Wednesday, Dec. 16 – Paulson Stadium, Statesboro
- 10:00 a.m.- Undergraduates from College of Arts & Humanities, College of Behavioral & Social Sciences, and Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health
- 3:00 p.m.- Undergraduates from Waters College of Health Professions and Allen E. Paulson College of Engineering and Computing
Thursday, Dec. 17 – Paulson Stadium, Statesboro
- 10:00 a.m.- Undergraduates from Parker College of Business, College of Education and College of Science and Mathematics
- 3:00 p.m. – All graduate students from the Jack N. Averitt College of Graduate Studies