OSU hosts in-person processional for 2020 and 2021 graduates

By Jess Hume-Pantuso
Oregon State University students gather for an in-person graduation ceremony and walk together into their next steps. Graduates for both the classes of 2020 and 2021 were invited to walk together through the OSU Corvallis, Ore. campus to Reser Stadium after last year’s Commencement ceremony was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cara Nixon, News Contributor

Oregon State University 2020 and 2021 graduates gathered on the Corvallis, Ore. campus on Friday for an in-person processional to celebrate their accomplishments. 

Prior to May 24, the university planned on only hosting a virtual Commencement ceremony—which is still taking place on June 12 starting at 10:30 a.m. for Corvallis campus graduates and June 13 beginning at 9 a.m. for OSU-Cascades graduates—but in light of reduced COVID-19 county risk levels and a student petition requesting an in-person celebration, OSU decided to host a face-to-face graduation event. 

A portion of the several thousand graduating students came to campus, separated according to their respective colleges, at 12 p.m. At 12:30 p.m., students and deans began a walk around the campus, led by Benny Beaver, a band of bagpipe players and the color guard. Their walk ended at Reser Stadium. 

Though the signs on the Reser Stadium entrances read “Graduates Only” and guests were not permitted inside, many family members and friends of graduates gathered around campus to celebrate.

At the processional, colleges sat together in the stands, with the 2021 platform party down on the field. 

The party included Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Chief Commencement Officer, Marion Rossi, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Development and Assistant Commencement Officer Prem Matthew, OSU Interim President Rebecca Johnson, President Emeritus Ed Ray, Associated Student Body of Oregon State University President Isabel Nuñez Pérez, Provost and Executive Vice President Ed Feser and deans from all 11 colleges.

The 11 colleges at OSU are agricultural sciences, business, earth, ocean and atmospheric sciences, education, engineering, forestry, liberal arts, pharmacy, public health and human sciences, science, and veterinary medicine. There were also graduates present at the event from the OSU Honors College and Graduate School.

The event began with the posting of the colors and the national anthem, followed by Kalapuyan land recognition, and brief, heartfelt remarks on the successes of OSU students and faculty by Johnson. 

Ed Ray also made a speech congratulating students on their ability to graduate during a global pandemic. He compared graduates of 2020 and 2021 to graduates of 1942, who, at the time, faced the United States entering World War II. Like those students, Ed Ray told the classes of 2020 and 2021 that they also have immense work to do for society, one which he said is currently plagued by climate change and social injustice. 

“None of you did anything to create this world, but you are our greatest hope,” Ray said. “…Good luck, Godspeed, and go Beavs!”

After those remarks, deans from each college presented their respective graduates. As per OSU tradition, there was an “outcheering” competition among the colleges. Johnson announced the College of Engineering, the largest college at OSU, as the winner.

Johnson gave final remarks, saying, “Today we celebrate your commitment to your dreams and watching them come true.”

Graduates were then invited to take photos with their respective deans at photobooths located on the field.

The energy at Reser Stadium, despite the requirement of face masks and the prohibition of guests inside, was hopeful. 

Alyssa Pamaran, a graduate who earned her degree in zoology, said she was “very happy” to have an in-person celebration for graduation. 

“Congratulations to everybody, we worked so hard, especially with the whole pandemic and everything, but we did it and we’re finally here,” Pamaran said. 

Following graduation, Pamaran will be moving back home to San Diego, Calif. to work for the San Diego Safari Park. 

Jonathan Lopez-Valadez, who graduated with a Master’s in Science of Agricultural Education, felt similarly about the event to Pamaran, though he was initially hesitant about it. 

“At first, I was a little apprehensive…actually being here, it changes everything,” Lopez-Valadez said.

Lopez-Valadez said he was happy to represent his college and see his fellow graduates in-person. Come fall, he will begin in a teaching position in Umpqua Valley, Ore. to teach agriculture education.

Though they couldn’t view the processional inside Reser Stadium, families and friends of the graduates gathered outside in support of the graduates. Linda Ray, whose son, Darryl, is a graduate in the psychology program, said she was “ecstatic” about it. 

For 2020 and 2021 graduates, Linda Ray said, “Congratulations. Change the world!”

Associate Dean of Academic Programs at the College of Agricultural Sciences Ricardo Mata-González said having an in-person graduation celebration really made a difference for everyone. 

“Being here, feeling the energy of the people, is just an unforgettable experience,” Mata-González said. “I had a student that graduated, a PhD student, I was happy to [be able to] hug him.”

“I wish them [2020 and 2021 graduates] the best,” Mata-González continued. “They have been in a very stressful situation the last year and a half, but that will make them better, too, because they know that things cannot be taken for granted… They have the right equipment to solve these problems and to help others.”

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