Western Michigan University held a brainstorming session with some spring 2021 graduates Thursday, March 25, to discuss ways the university can augment the virtual ceremony safely.
Kahler B. Schuemann, chief of staff, said he and other faculty members held this session to listen to the concerns of the graduates.
“Although we need to move forward with a virtual commencement, that doesn't mean we can’t continue to be creative and think about the resources we do have to do a better job at celebrating our graduates,” Schumann said.
The brainstorming session comes after many graduates expressed their frustrations with a virtual ceremony. Senior Isabel Campbell created a petition in early March, hoping to find a compromise with the university to better commemorate graduating students.
Four WMU seniors attended the session to share their ideas for safe commencement celebrations. These include offering individual departments guidelines for in-person events, and providing a photo opportunity on campus for the graduates and their families.
Henry Thiry expressed he would like to see the university provide additional guidance to individual colleges that want to hold celebrations in person.
“I think there’s a need for some empowerment and guidance given to departments and colleges, like ’hey if you’re department wants to do something in person this summer or late this spring, this is how you do it,’” Thiry said.
Senior Erich Miner said he would like to see a photo opportunity on campus for graduates and their families. Schumann said the idea could be achievable with the possibility of hiring professional photographers at different locations on campus.
Miner also added he would like to see a hybrid approach to the ceremony where students are broadcasted while accepting their diplomas. Schumann said they have been challenged by President Edward Montgomery to strategize what a similar event outdoors could look like for the Summer I graduates.
“It’s a smaller group of graduates (Summer I) and we could then have the tool available potentially for the future and start expanding that to larger groups,” Schumann said.