The usual sea of red caps and gowns were missing from Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium at Stony Brook University on graduation day, but the milestone did not go by without a celebration of sorts.
On May 22, the university presented its 2020 Virtual Degree Conferral Celebration in a live stream event that students and families could view. The event included 7,100 graduates, who were awarded a total of 7,190 degrees and certificate completions. The students ranged in age from 18 to 71 and represented 65 countries and 40 states, according to a press release from Stony Brook University.
Michael Bernstein, interim university president, addressed the students during the virtual ceremony.
“You are about to become graduates of one of the most prestigious public universities in the world,” he said. “Graduation is a bittersweet milestone in the best of circumstances, with a pivotal life-chapter ending and an uncertain journey beginning. The strong emotions that inevitably come with this rite of passage are of course uniquely amplified in the midst of the historic upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Julianna Casella, who graduated with a bachelor of science in biology and psychology with a minor in writing and rhetoric, was selected as the Class of 2020 student speaker and was able to address the students during the live stream event.
“I am confident that any other class of Seawolves would have responded the same way [to the pandemic] because that is what we do here at Stony Brook,” Casella said. “Even though much has been lost during this crisis, at the end of the day, two feelings prevail — hope and gratitude. I will always be thankful for the memories and opportunities Stony Brook has given me and if our response to this pandemic has been proof enough, I think we should all be hopeful for what the future holds.”
The decision to hold a virtual ceremony was made in April with Bernstein calling the decision a difficult one that was made “in a deliberate and careful way.” Input from medical experts and the current guidelines from Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and the New York State governor’s office were taken into consideration. During the April announcement, Bernstein added that the decision was made to ensure “the well-being of our community and loved ones.”
Back in April, student Muhammad Fithra Yoga started a petition on www.change.org asking SBU to not cancel but postpone the spring commencement ceremony to the summer after the pandemic has passed. More than 1,600 signed the online petition.coron