With just under a week left until Commencement, graduating seniors are eagerly preparing to honor the day… from home. Due to the coronavirus, Lesley University’s Commencement ceremony will be held virtually this Saturday, May 16. Until it is safe for a proper, in-person ceremony to be held, graduates will be honored online through “recorded message[s] from President Janet L. Steinmayer, Chair of the Board of Trustees Hans Strauch, and other members of [the] university community,” according to the Lesley website.
While a remote ceremony isn’t ideal by any means, graduates are making the best of their unique circumstances. For some, particularly international students, a virtual celebration presents a rare opportunity to include more family members and friends in the day’s festivities. Yuka Chen, a political science major, is excited to be able to invite more of her loved ones to virtually attend Commencement: “Although I prefer [to have] a physical graduation, I appreciate that [Lesley] is making the effort and hosting this virtual graduation. I am not too against the virtual graduation either, because at least my family in Taiwan and Japan can share my happiness together online.”
Regardless of the Commencement format, students seem to view the conclusion of their Lesley careers as bittersweet. For some, attending Lesley was a chance to feel recognized and valued for the first time in their educational journeys. Andrew Jacks, an LCAL student who majored in Liberal Studies with an emphasis in Educational Studies, shared: “After dealing with so much red tape and being unseen by other schools, Lesley provided me with a fulfilling experience. I may not walk [across the stage] after all this time, but I finally have my degree!”
For first generation students, this rang particularly true. Jose Mendoza, a Business Management major, exclaimed: “I am beyond excited to be graduating Lesley! As the first person in my family to graduate from high school and now a university, it is just breathtaking. I might be the first one, but certainly not the last as my whole family is graduating with me…” Others are growing increasingly nostalgic as they prepare to leave the friends and professional connections they’ve made. Jacqueline Souza, a Psychology major, reflected: I couldn’t be more proud to have Lesley as my (soon to be) alma mater…the Lesley faculty, along with classmates I’ve met along the way, will always hold a special place in my heart.” And Grace Kyrk, an Environmental Science major, echoed her thoughts: “I will always remember the people I’ve met at Lesley, and the amazing opportunities I had because of going to Lesley.” She also added, “I’m excited to become a teacher and use [what I learned.]”
A Lesley degree represents four years of fun, friendships, and personal growth, but it’s also indicative of hard work and dedication to one’s chosen field. As the Class of 2020 faces graduation, they are prepared to begin a career, having completed internships, delivered presentations, and written countless papers. Lesley graduates are poised to change the world because of their dedication and passion, fostered by caring professors, mentors, and peers.
Dean Steven Shapiro shares these sentiments, emphasizing the graduating class’ readiness to make the future brighter with their unique talents. He writes, “Life is challenging – even more than usual now – but you are ready. It won’t be easy – it may be frustrating or scary at times – but with seriousness of purpose, integrity in your values, and a healthy sense of humor, I am confident that you will bring light to the world and make it a much better place. I have faith in the future because of you.”
Class of 2020, we stand with you. You’ve overcome personal and professional struggles to get to where you stand today. Even in the midst of a global pandemic, you’ve persevered; you are about to become college graduates. The Lesley Public Post recognizes your outstanding achievements and looks forward to seeing what you accomplish in the coming years.
Author’s Note: I spoke to Dean Shapiro, while Professor Donna Halper collected quotes from graduating seniors.