Cal Poly graduates and their families are celebrating a milestone this weekend with both virtual and in-person graduations.
Thousands of graduating seniors at Cal Poly will walk across the stage at Spanos Stadium to receive their long-awaited diplomas in a total of six ceremonies this weekend.
“I’m so glad we got to walk. That was like the one thing that made my year after having it be on Zoom,” Cal Poly graduate Angel Amante said.
More than 4,000 graduates will have attended graduation ceremonies this weekend and each graduate was allowed up to four guests.
Normally, there would be 15,000 graduates walking across the stage. This year, some opted for virtual graduation instead.
“It feels surreal to be actually standing here and looking at the stage and finally realizing, I’m done, because we haven’t had that college experience for a while now," Cal Poly graduate, Kritika Mahajan, added.
Sanitation stations throughout the stadium served as pandemic reminders.
Some graduates and families wore masks and some chose not to.
“Honestly the only difference for me I think is that it’s not as big of a ceremony. It’s more about us just having our moment I guess to walk across the stage,” Cal Poly graduate Kelsey Gunsky said.
“I wish more of my extended family could come, but this is better than nothing. I’m honestly really glad that it’s happening so it’s all okay,” Cal Poly graduate Bree Gillis said.
College administrators even joked about the shift toward online classes during the coronavirus, holding up a yellow frame during a speech that resembles the yellow box on Zoom that lights up when you’re talking.
“That feels much better. The Zoom box is like a talking stick. You can’t talk unless you have the yellow box,” Keith Humphrey, Cal Poly vice president of student affairs, said in his speech.
Cal Poly graduates also reflected on their experiences taking nearly two years of virtual college courses.
“I think there’s a lot less hand holding when you’re in virtual classes, but it’s taught me a lot about how to work hard,” Cal Poly graduate Jahna Mujoo said.
“Separating home from school was kind of difficult, and I got burnt out, but we made it," Edith Cui, Cal Poly graduate, added.
Their hard work has not gone unnoticed.
“It’s really impressive what you’ve done under the circumstances over the past 16 months. You are the class that could not be stopped, Jeffery Armstrong, Cal Poly President, said in a speech.
“I’m still looking for a job, so if you are hiring, hit me up," graduate Austin Lee said about his post-college job search.
Following this weekend, a separate, in-person event is planned for December to honor the class of 2020.