More than 90 fall graduates of Western New Mexico University participated in a live virtual commencement ceremony on Friday afternoon.
The virtual ceremony was streamed live at wnmu.edu and on the university’s Facebook page, where thousands watched and commented as their loved ones received their symbolic diplomas.
Opening the ceremony, WNMU President Dr. Joseph Shepard said to participants, “I salute you for your dedication to your courses and your perseverance.”
He went on to honor members participants who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces and acknowledge the families who supported graduates along their educational journeys. “I’d like to recognize those who are the first in their families to receive a college degree. About 1 in 2 of our students are first generation college graduates,” Dr. Shepard said.
President of the Associated Students of WNMU Brenda Hernandez, who also sang the national anthem at the start of the ceremony, addressed her fellow graduates. “The person who’s handing your diploma is a person who’s always believed in you and is aware of all your hard work,” she said. “Graduation is not defined by a gown, a piece of paper or a cap. Graduation is defined by courage and bravery to take the next step and move forward in life.”
Hernandez said that while they are moving on from this milestone without having crossed a stage one after the other and tossed their caps to form a, they are still graduating. “COVID-19 will not be in the way of your hopes and dreams. Instead, we are a generation of hope and rebuilding the community,” she said.
As in the spring virtual commencement ceremony, this event provided graduates to personalize their celebrations and join from their own homes and yards. Some celebrated with their families and others welcomed their pets into view. One student bounced triumphantly on a trampoline. Others received hugs or showed off expectant bellies.
“I miss shaking hands and donning hoods, but I’m very happy the families got to do so. We saw pirates, dogs and snow,” Dr. Shepard said after each graduate had been spotlighted.
Total, more than 250 graduates earned 59 certificates, 31 associate degrees, 104 bachelor’s degrees and 84 master’s degrees from WNMU in fall 2020.