OSU-Cascades campus prepares for hybrid Commencement celebrations

This illustration depicts an option for students graduating in spring 2021 to drive through in-person or attend virtual celebration events. This event is for students from the Oregon State University Cascades campus in Bend, Ore.

Quentin Comus, OSU-Cascades Beat Reporter

While the coronavirus pandemic continues to push college Commencement ceremonies across the country online, Oregon State University’s Cascades campus in Bend, Ore. is preparing for a hybrid approach.

“Last year was definitely not what we wanted to have happen but we did the best we could,” said Nathan Moses, assistant director of events and engagement at OSU-Cascades. “With us being a little bit smaller, we have to be a little bit more crafty with what we are putting together [this year].”

Moses, who is leading the development of the Cascades campus’ Commencement festivities, said the university plans to host both a virtual ceremony and an in-person drive-through celebration event on June 13. Graduates of the Corvallis and Ecampus campuses are invited to attend an in-person processional in Corvallis on June 11.

Former OSU President F. King Alexander said in an email to students and staff in February that spring 2021 Commencement ceremonies at both the Corvallis, Ore. and Bend campuses would be held virtually for the second year in a row due to, “continuing public health concerns related to COVID-19.”

In his email, Alexander said graduating students will continue to play a crucial role in the planning of the celebrations and the university would incorporate engaging personal touches to make the virtual ceremonies more interactive.

“We are putting together a traditional ceremony in a virtual format,” Moses said. “We’ve [also] created a drive-through event that will have some key points seniors wanted to see.”

Graduating students will be able to watch a pre-recorded ceremony including guest speakers, faculty components, a student slide-show and reading the individual names of the graduating class.

The in-person drive-through event will feature things that will remind graduating students of their college experience and allow them to connect with the people that were there for their journey.

Moses shared that student employees, faculty and even family members will have a spot in this year’s festivities, citing one-of-a-kind visuals and long-delayed personal interactions as highlights of the event.

While Moses was hesitant to reveal details of their Commencement plans in order to preserve surprises for those involved, he said the event will be a unique opportunity for the campus community to come together to celebrate the class of 2021.

This includes a slate of guest speakers who will make remarks at the June 13 virtual ceremony. Former Hydroflask CEO Scott Allan has been selected as the Commencement speaker while graduating senior Kelsey Abbott has been selected as the senior speaker. Associated Students of Cascades Campus President Taha Elwefati will address the audience as well.

“What prompted me to apply for the student speaker position was wanting to tell my story,” Abbott, a tourism, recreation, and adventure leadership and sustainability major, said via email. “I am a non-traditional first-generation college student who has gone through a lot and I wanted to share that. I know other students can relate to my experience and I want them to take away something as well; they are not alone.”

Abbott, who is a prominent face on campus, said she owes some of her success to getting to work with all different walks of life.

“My history at OSU-Cascades has been a little bit of everything,” Abbott said. “I started and am the president of the Paddle Club. I worked as an event assistant and summer resident assistant to Nathan Moses before working for Lori Waters with logistics. I have participated in Cascades Adventures trips and the Costa Rica trip that Andrew Hawley and Ron Reuter host.”

Abbott said she plans to speak about resilience and perseverance in addition to the struggles from the last year and a half in her speech. This is something Elwefati also plans to address.

“We’ve been through a lot as a student body this year and I hope to highlight the challenges this senior class has overcome,” Elwefati, a sophomore social science major, said.

Elwefati, along with others involved in the festivities, is looking to celebrate everything this class of graduating students have accomplished.

“Regardless of how people choose to participate this year, congratulations!” Moses said. “We’re incredibly proud of the work that everyone has put in and whether you know me or not, it doesn’t really matter, I’m still proud of all of you.”