University Of Illinois Class Of 2021 Graduates Reflect On COVID Graduation
URBANA — Bells rang across the University of Illinois’s main quadrangle as seniors lined up at Alma Mater to take graduation pictures by Altgeld Tower.
Pandemic or no, May is still graduation season on the Urbana campus.
An estimated 5,600 University of Illinois students graduated during the weekend of May 15. However, for many of them, this weekend’s graduation ceremonies were less than they’d hoped.
The university’s 2021 commencement ceremonies consisted primarily of an in-person, individual, private stage-crossing ceremony with just a few invited guests, combined with a virtual celebration recognizing all the graduates.
Many seniors said they were happy to get any sort of graduation after such a strange academic year.
The pandemic kept graduate Miku Morikuni apart from her family for a year. And now it has kept her father from attending her graduation.
“My dad is still working, and a lot of work has returned to in-person in Japan,” she said. “So it’s logistically difficult for him to take three weeks off from work, even if he were only in the States for a week for my graduation.
“He would have to go back to Japan and quarantine for two weeks, and that was just logistically very difficult.”
Tyler Schwartzoff, a senior in Chemical Engineering, said he wanted the university to provide more than it has in terms of celebration for graduates.
“I kinda feel like the university is more trying to do the bare minimum to placate people instead of actually trying to do something to celebrate,” Schwartzoff said.
Laura Wilhelm-Barr, the university’s director of special events, said the primary goal has been to celebrate the graduates.
“We’re just really proud of everything, especially during this year that the graduates have accomplished and all the hard work they’ve put in,” she said. “We want to do everything we can to help them celebrate, you know, what a great accomplishment it is to be a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.”