Ball State staff share commencement planning process for December 2021, third in-person ceremony during the COVID-19 pandemic

<p>A new graduate moves his tassel from the left to the right May 8, 2021, at Scheumann Stadium. The spring 2021 commencement ceremonies were held at Scheumann Stadium for the first time in Ball State history due to social distancing procedures. Fall 2021 graduation ceremonies will be held at Worthen Arena with masks required. <strong>Jaden Whiteman, DN File</strong></p>

A new graduate moves his tassel from the left to the right May 8, 2021, at Scheumann Stadium. The spring 2021 commencement ceremonies were held at Scheumann Stadium for the first time in Ball State history due to social distancing procedures. Fall 2021 graduation ceremonies will be held at Worthen Arena with masks required. Jaden Whiteman, DN File

As the fall 2021 semester comes to an end, roughly 1,500 Ball State seniors are preparing to graduate and head into different work fields, said Angel Tuttle, assistant director of commencement and university events. 

At Ball State, commencement is a tri-annual event, and this semester, it will be held Saturday, Dec. 18 at Worthen Arena. Tuttle said, although 1,500 students are graduating, only about 600 students will be walking. Due to COVID-19 concerns, Ball State will be holding two separate ceremonies. The two ceremonies will also be livestreamed for people who aren’t able to attend in person.

“I'm still receiving late registrations every day, but I mean, it shouldn't fluctuate that much,” Tuttle said. “But I would say our goal is to stay around the three- to 350 range for each ceremony.” 

Although there will be social distancing and masks are required, Tuttle said graduates can invite as many guests as they please.

At 10 a.m., Ball State will host the ceremony for undergraduate and graduate students from the Miller College of Business, College of Health and College of Sciences and Humanities. At 1 p.m., graduate and undergraduate students from the R. Wayne Estopinal College of Architecture, College of Communication, Information and Media, College of Fine Arts and Teachers College will take the stage. 

“We have divided that [graduation] into two ceremonies,” Tuttle said. “We actually did this in the summer, in July, for commencement and it worked really well. So that's why we're continuing at this time.” 

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Tuttle said the number of students participating in graduation hasn’t been greatly affected. In the spring and summer, Tuttle said the number of students in attendance were about the same as other years. 

According to the Ball State graduate list, 1,349 degrees were awarded in summer 2021 and 515 commencement registrations were received. In spring 2021, 3,194 degrees were awarded and 2,475 commencement registrations were received. Andrew Walker, senior communications strategist, said as of Nov. 29, 605 commencement registrations have been received for fall 2021.

“With [COVID-19], I think everyone's kind of treasuring those moments more,” Tuttle said. 

Tuttle said one of the largest changes to commencement has been the graduation application process. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, students just needed to submit an application form to graduate. Now, students have to apply to graduate, register to attend the ceremony and order their caps and gowns by a particular date. 

Tuttle said this method has been beneficial because it makes graduation easier on Ball State staff because they can get a much closer estimate on the number of students attending. 

“I think there have been some real advantages that we would like to continue with the process in the future,” Tuttle said.

Gonzo Barajas, senior director of auxiliary services for facilities and events, said setup for commencement has not been affected by COVID-19, other than people setting up for the ceremony being required to wear masks. Barajas said it only takes 16-25 people to set up for the commencement ceremony. 

Ball State President Geoffrey Mearns will be the speaker at the fall commencement ceremonies. He also spoke at the spring and summer 2021 ceremonies. Tuttle said Mearns being the speaker at graduation again isn’t necessarily because of COVID-19, but it plays a factor in who speaks at graduation. 

“We're just trying to be as safe as possible and try to keep it as simple as possible to ensure that everyone has a safe experience,” Tuttle said. 

Contact Angelica Gonzalez Morales with comments at agonzalezmor@bsu.edu or on Twitter @angelicag_1107. Contact Lila Fierek with comments at lkfierek@bsu.edu or on Twitter @fierek_lila.

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