Lindenwood planning ‘virtual recognition’ for graduates in midst of social distancing

Kayla Drake, Managing Editor

The provost’s office is planning a “virtual recognition” for students slated to walk in May, and a separate ceremony for May graduates is being tentatively considered for December.

The recognition will be a video sent out to graduates, which will include a personalized message from University President John Porter and other faculty members.

The university will also collect photos and videos of graduates to create a “virtual collage,” which will be displayed virtually and on campus, said Molly Hudgins, associate provost for curriculum and experiential learning.

An email with further details will be sent out the last week of April, Hudgins said.  Plans are still being finalized, but virtual recognition will cover graduate and undergraduate students, including from the Belleville campus.

Originally, graduation was scheduled to be May 8 and 9 at the St. Charles Family Arena. Some seniors expressed disappointment that it was canceled because of COVID-19, with some hoping to have family come from out of state.   Now, graduates will be honored virtually in late May.

Hudgins said the university decided on this route for virtually honoring students after researching what other schools were doing and taking feedback from Lindenwood Student Government, Student Life, the athletic department, and other sources.

They considered videos that would have every graduate’s name read, as happens in on-ground graduations, but Hudgins said Lindenwood will not take that option, instead giving graduates a more personal experience.

“You can imagine your graduation ceremony as you hear students’ names read as they go across the stage,” she said. “This was literally that you were just going to sit in front of your computer, and a lot of it was just to hear everybody’s name read as your name card flashed up, and it just did not seem that it was going to be overly meaningful to students.”

So instead, Hudgins said, “We wanted to try to do something that was a little more special and really recognize a graduate in the way that we could and make it personal to you, even though we can’t all be together.”

A chance to walk in December 

However, the university has also opened up its December ceremony to May graduates. Recently, Lindenwood sent spring seniors a survey asking if they were planning to attend the December ceremony. 450 students said yes, Hudgins said.

Provost Marilyn Abbott said that is the size of an average graduation ceremony for Lindenwood.

“There’s a very good chance we’ll be adding an additional ceremony,” she said.

The university is still considering whether ceremonies will be split by schools (with May graduates alongside December graduates) or if there will be a separate one entirely for May graduates.