College graduation: MTU hosts campus walk for ‘20, ‘21 grads

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Michigan Technological University faculty, including Andrew Storer, dean of the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, center, were on hand to greet students.

HOUGHTON — After two years of commencement ceremonies were wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic, Michigan Technological University found a way to honor its graduates in person.

Friday afternoon, graduates from 2020 and 2021 donned their cap and gown and participated in a walk through campus.

“I think it means everything right now, given the events of the pandemic we’ve had in the past year,” said Joe Cooper, interim vice president for student affairs and dean of students at Tech. “…It is incredibly exciting. It’s incredibly positive. The atmosphere on campus is so lively. And I think people are just really glad to have this opportunity to come together in person and celebrate.”

Booths were spread throughout campus with souvenirs. The husky statue in the middle of campus was a popular photo op, as was a black, yellow and white balloon arch made for the occasion.

Other campus staples added to the atmosphere. Blizzard T. Husky wandered the grounds, posing for photos and high-fiving graduates. Some stood to watch the Husky Pep Band, which played favorites such as the “Family Guy” theme song.

In the Rozsa Center lobby, a stage setup with “Pomp & Circumstance” playing in the background helped replicate the traditional experience.

The booths were spread out across campus, while schools were staggered throughout the day to avoid overcrowding.

Crews of volunteers also helped out with spacing and with helping to reduce bottlenecks throughout the day.

“Nobody ever said, ‘Well, what can we do?’ It’s like, ‘What should we do?’,” said Chad Arney, a member of the organizing committee. “Of course, we looked at (regulations). But we always said, ‘Let’s go above that.'”

Tech administrators walked around campus to mingle with the students.

“Normally I get to shake hands with all of the engineering graduates one by one by one,” said Janet Callahan, dean of the College of Engineering. “So it’s just nice to have eyes on our graduates … I’m very proud to be at the sort of sunny place on the far end of the pandemic. I know it’s not really over, but it feels like a period to me.”

Callahan handed out stickers for Husky Bites, the webinar series she hosts that launched during the pandemic.

“We started in summer, and we were like, ‘We’re just not going to let this pull us down. We’re going to start telling a really strong story about Michigan Tech research and faculty and students,'” she said. “I feel like Michigan Tech made lemonade out of lemons.”

Haley VanWyk graduated this spring with a bachelor’s in biology. After receiving a scholarship offer from Tech, VanWyk had fallen in love with the campus.

“Literally within the campus, there’s so much nature, and we can just go hike and be involved,” she said. “And having (Mont) Ripley right there, it’s just a nice area.”

As a member of the student hockey fan group Mitch’s Misfits, she missed not being able to graduate in the MacInnes Ice Arena. But getting any kind of celebration during COVID is important, she said.

“It just means that we’re getting back to a sense of normalcy,” she said. “The fact that we get to have anything is good enough for me.”


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