UT graduates reflect on strange end to college with virtual commencement ceremony


AUSTIN (KXAN) — They have worked for years to earn their college degrees – so you can forgive them for thinking if the ending is a little underwhelming.

University of Texas graduates will not get the commencement ceremony they expected as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead, this year’s commencement, could be seen virtually.

UT graduate student, Brian Smith-Eitches participated in that virtual commencement. He says it’s quite the juxtaposition from the in-person ceremony he took part in for his undergraduate program.

“Saturday, I graduate from a masters in technology science in information studies,” said McCombs Graduate Student, Brian Smith-Eitches. “I’m happy that I’m going to have one that I’ll remember forever, this is so unique.”

Brian & his family virtually watch his graduation ceremony Saturday.

Brian lost his mom this year due to cancer, plus he’s had to manage online schooling. It’s been a hard year on him both personally and academically.

“A lot of people that came today just knew it would be a tough moment for me,” said Smith-Eitches.

Saturday, Brian and his family watched as the dean of his school spoke on a TV in his living room. Afterward, they sang the traditional Texas fight song, which helped lift their spirits.

On Friday, KXAN spoke to some graduates having a photoshoot ahead of the ceremony.

“It is sad because we’ve been working for a long time here, just doing a lot of hard work, but it’s also necessary to keep everyone safe right now,” said Alexis Rodriguez.

“That’s supposed to be the moment of closure so that’s been hard to deal with,” Meagan Yates said.

“All these people have been a big part of my life for the last four years, and now I don’t know when the next time I’m going to see them is.”

But they also looked on the bright side of a virtual commencement.

“It will be nice to be able to include more people than we would have in person, so we are really looking forward to it,” said Charlotte Gorman.

“I think it’s always important to remain hopeful during any challenge,” Joel Carter added. “It’s the key to overcoming, eventually.”

If there is a silver lining for students, this is not the first time that the tradition dating back to 1884 has been canceled.

Most recently, it was called off in 2015 due to bad weather.

More than 7,000 students got their bachelor’s, 2,000 received their masters and another 820 received their doctoral.

Austinite and Longhorns icon, Matthew McConaughey, joined in on the celebration as part of the commencement video for UT Moody College of Communications graduates as well.

McConaughey was also featured as part of a lineup with other UT graduates offering up their congratulatory remarks to the new grads. 

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