Southwestern University’s Commencement ceremony is a staple of the spring season. However, as COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is advising the cancellation of large gatherings, and Williamson County has ordered a ban on all public events through May 11, 2020. Unfortunately, this mandate necessitates that we postpone Southwestern’s graduation ceremony. We are heartbroken to have this long-held and meaningful tradition interrupted in this way.
A Letter to the Class of 2020
Class of 2020,
Your senior year at Southwestern will be unique and you will be talking about it for years to come. I share this from personal experience. My junior year in college was cut short when universities around the country shut down after the murder of students at Kent State who were protesting the war in Vietnam. In the days before laptops and desktops, we were sent home with written instructions about how to complete our assignments in the ensuing weeks. Toward the end of my senior year, my campus ground to a halt over an intense labor dispute and Commencement-related events were truncated. As a result, my graduating class has forever had a special bond—even now after almost fifty years! The Southwestern class of 2020 will also have a special bond because of the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
Your semester is not over yet. Right now, your professors are working hard to design the remainder of your semester’s coursework so that you can master the essential content of your classes. I believe that Southwestern students will complete the semester more successfully than students at many large universities where student-faculty contact is limited and large classrooms promote anonymity. You and you professors know one another, you connect with one another outside the classroom, and you have confidence in one another. I believe that connection and engagement are at the heart of a Southwestern education and you will sustain these through your interaction with professors, with course materials, and even with your fellow students.
Yours is a generation infused with a passion for justice, a thirst for innovation, and a special appreciation for the diversity of background, experience, and identity of the persons with whom you share this planet. Do not allow the swirl of events distract you from reflecting on your college experiences and accomplishments. Your SU-hone education and leadership skills will provide you with many of the tools you need to go out into the world beyond Georgetown and do great things. There are so many members of our Southwestern community—faculty, staff, fellow students, and alumni—who applaud your achievements and anticipate your future success.
But we do need to find special ways to celebrate your graduation. Whatever we do will be unique to the Class of 2020. Your input is critical and in the days ahead we will be reaching out to your class for ideas about next steps. Rest assured, though, that as soon as you have completed all of the requirements for your degree, you officially will be a Southwestern graduate.
In the meantime, I urge you to be responsive to the outreach of Southwestern faculty and staff and follow their guidance on how to finish this semester strong. Continue your preparations for your post-graduation plans. The Center for Career and Professional Development is ready to help graduating seniors navigate their futures through virtual appointments for resume/cover letter review, graduate and professional school questions, mock interviews, job search and other career-related issues. E-mail CCPD at firstname.lastname@example.org to connect and schedule a phone or web appointment.
In your time at Southwestern you have felt the power of community in many different ways. The Class of 2020 will forever be bonded in an extraordinary fashion. I ask that as you move forward you continue to support one another and work together as we live through extraordinary circumstances.