About 10,000 graduates from the classes of 2020 and 2021 walked the stage over the span of five days — totaling to 14 in-person ceremonies at Cal State Fullerton's Intramural Field.
About 3,000 graduates from the class of 2020 and 7,000 graduates from the class of 2021 participated in the celebrations, with around 20,000 guests invited to join.
Each ceremony was scheduled with a specific arrival date and time slot that corresponded with the different college departments.
In order to ensure social distancing and abide by the mandated COVID-19 restrictions, graduates were only allowed to bring two guests to the ceremony. Additionally, a live stream of each ceremony was made available on YouTube for friends and family of the graduates who were unable to attend in person.
During the event, graduates and guests were instructed to move through a barricaded line, while standing in socially distanced squares painted on the ground. The tent was equipped with fans to cool off, and it provided protection from the sun.
Various areas with photo opportunities were scattered around the field, and the graduates were also able to take a photo with CSUF President Fram Virjee and his wife Julie, prior to walking the stage. Once near the stage, graduates lined up, scanned their grad pass and walked across the stage while guests were able to watch and take photographs very close to the stage.
In an email to the Daily Titan, Ellen Treanor, the associate vice president for strategic communications, said that she thought that the ceremonies went very well, and they learned a lot with each ceremony.
Treanor said the events team made necessary changes with certain ceremonies as they came about.
Treanor also said that the photo station set up after the stage walk was a popular stop for students and their guests, this however, created a long line that forced the stage walk to pause briefly.
"The team set up another switchback cue and offered to let people skip the line and leave if they wanted," Treanor said. "It was tough on the events team, but the participants were overwhelmingly grateful for a well-organized, respectful event."
The events team planned the graduation ceremony for months, developed at least 17 versions and took input from graduating students who wanted the stage walk, Treanor said.
Andrea Kelligrew, associate director of university events, said that her team, the division of university advancement, were the commencement's lead planners.
Kelligrew said that the commencement ceremony normally would have taken over a 10 to 11-month planning cycle, but this year’s ceremonies were planned in eight weeks.
"This COVID situation has been very difficult, and a lot of the event planners across the CSU and the UCs, we all kind of banded together and worked things out for each other to figure out how we were going to do it," Kelligrew said.
She said this year's graduation ceremony was a very different and once-in-a-lifetime version, where guests are able to stay close to the grads and get a front-row view of them walking across the stage.
Kelligrew said the lead planners were excited to give graduates a unique experience, especially given how difficult the past year was for the classes of 2020 and 2021.
Bridget Cahill, a 2020 graduate and kinesiology major, graduated on Saturday.
While she said she was disappointed in not having a traditional graduation ceremony with all her friends and family, Cahill said she was grateful for CSUF’s efforts in making her graduation meaningful.
Cahill said that the unpredictability of the pandemic had made her accept the fact that there would be no ceremony for the graduates this year, but with all the recent updates, she said the hope for normalcy was within reach.
“The whole event was very well organized and CSUF did as much as they could to make the classes of 2020 and 2021 feel celebrated,” Cahill said. “Everyone was so enthusiastic and you could feel a real sense of pride from the graduates.”