While the nation continues to battle the spread of the coronavirus, Illinois State University planned a nontraditional graduation commencement ceremony, the Redbird Stage Crossing to honor spring and summer 2021 graduates. Additionally, 2020 graduates who did not have a graduation ceremony are invited to take part in the socially distanced ceremony.
Students will be given a timeslot in late April or early May to walk across the stage at Redbird Arena with four of their guests. The commencement ceremony will be available for viewing on the Illinois State University website beginning May 7.
“Graduating students and their guests have consistently shared with us that the most important aspect of the commencement ceremony to them is the graduate crossing a commencement stage and having their name announced,” Associate Dean of Students Jill Benson said. “This was the portion of a traditional ceremony that was preserved in the Redbird Stage Crossing. It is also the portion that cannot be replicated online, whereas all commencement speeches easily translate to an online format.
During the spring 2020 and fall 2020 semesters, graduation ceremonies were online, and graduates were mailed their diploma covers, program books, tassels and keychains.
For the Redbird Stage Crossing, 40 graduates per hour can sign up for the walk-through on stage, and each graduate is allowed up to four guests. Graduating students will pick up their diploma cover from the stage. During the crossing event, the students will have their name read and a personalized slide with their degree and honors information displayed.
Each student will have one minute to walk across the stage and have professional photos taken.
“The stage will be setup in traditional format and will be suitable for guests to join the graduate on stage, as well, which is not an opportunity afforded during a traditional commencement ceremony,” Benson said.
Benson said that ISU looked for creative ways to enhance the graduating experience for ISU students while also factoring in state gathering restrictions.
“It is very logistically challenging to provide this opportunity to thousands of graduates, while still ensuring adherence to state gathering restrictions,” Benson said. “However, it was important to honor our graduates with some in-person opportunity, and also important to allow as many of their family/guests to be in attendance as possible.”
Currently, the majority of registered participants are spring and summer 2021 graduates, but an additional 350 graduates from 2020 are also registered.
Nursing student Matthew Scaggs said he will be graduating from ISU in summer 2021 and will be walking in the Redbird Stage Crossing event.
“I think not being with your graduating class and not having everyone together makes it a little less fun and more restrictive as to what a regular graduation would be,” Scaggs said.
Scaggs additionally said that while he will miss how easy it was to make friends at ISU, he is excited to begin his career and have a set routine after graduation. He looks forward to taking photos during the ceremony and having them to look back on.
“It’s always important to have friends and family there. Four is kind-of limited, but it’s reasonable for what’s going on,” Scaggs said.
Middle school education major Delaney Peeples said she is excited to begin teaching and start her adult life after graduation. She was looking forward to walking on stage and graduating with all of her friends, but the pandemic has changed that reality for her.
“I think they [ISU] should have done something more. I wish it actually felt like a graduation ceremony instead of a 5-minute, ‘here’s your diploma, see you later,’” Peeples said.
While she is disappointed that her family cannot watch her graduate and she cannot cross the stage with her friends, she said she encourages graduating students to take part in the Redbird Stage Crossing event.
“A lot of people look forward to graduation, and this is our last thing that we get to do before we’re not on campus anymore,” Peeples said. “This is the last things a lot of people will do before they move onto the real world, and this is their last school related thing ever.”
Additional guests will be directed to a celebration tent at the North Arena Plaza to livestream the event until they can re-unite with the graduate and other guests, At the celebration tent, there will be more photo opportunities, including the opportunity to take photos with various ISU artifacts.
More information can be found at GraduationServices.IllinoisState.edu.