For the first time since before the pandemic, Vassar’s graduating seniors and their families will have a ceremony without many restrictions to celebrate the accomplishments of the departing Class of 2022.
“For seniors, their families and Vassar, Commencement not only celebrates students’ achievements and their resiliency in overcoming the numerous obstacles presented by the pandemic, [but] it also marks the transition into the next phase of their lives as global citizens,” Associate Vice President for Communications Gladwyn Lopez said in a written correspondence.
Natalie Habaybeh ’22 is excited that the time to graduate has finally come, though feeling bittersweet about leaving her friends. “I feel really fortunate that my senior year has been more ‘normal’ than previous years,” she wrote in an email. “I am super excited to have my family come and see me walk the stage. I am a little nervous about my grandparents coming and how that will be like, both COVID-wise and logistically, in terms of seating on graduation hill, but I feel really fortunate to have my family come and see me graduate in person.”
Many seniors share Habaybeh’s sentiments, both regarding the uncertainty of COVID-19 exposure at the ceremony and an excitement to be in-person. James Grosjean ’22 said in a written correspondence, “To be honest, a lot of the reality of it hasn’t quite sunk in yet. Especially after COVID.” Though he has expressed concern for possible graduation-related spreads. Grosjean added, “On one hand, I am very excited that guests are going to be able to attend…I am glad at least that because Commencement is after finals, most of the Vassar community will be out of harm’s way in the event of a graduation-related spread.”
According to Lopez, the College has taken steps to prevent spreading at the event with certain policies, including barring guests and family of graduates from staying overnight on campus in the days leading up to Commencement, which was allowed pre-pandemic, and requiring all guests to have a negative COVID-19 test taken within 24 hours of arrival to campus. “Commencement this year will be the first since the start of the pandemic to essentially take place as all Commencements had done prior to COVID-19,” Lopez said.
“This year, as far as senior years go, is probably the best I could have hoped for given the state of the world and the pandemic. That being said, it was far from perfect,” wrote Grosjean, adding, “I understand many people are deeply weary of the pandemic (I am as well) but I was deeply troubled by the number of policy decisions which seemed to be made less out of genuine safety and more out of simple exhaustion.”
Whatever the restrictions turned out to be throughout the year, Vassar students tended to follow them, including for Commencement and Senior Week. “I wonder how much of the COVID spikes could have been stopped by further Vassar/administration regulations, considering that I think the students took liberties with acknowledging and following the rules,” Habaybeh reflected.
Prior to the Commencement Ceremony, Senior Week includes a range of activities and events for students to enjoy and commemorate their time at Vassar, according to Lopez. Notable events include the Senior Formal and after-party, the Carnival of Color, Laser Tag and trips to New Paltz and Beacon.
Commencement will begin with a processional followed by opening remarks from President Bradley. Next will be remarks from the Dean of Faculty William Hoynes; Senior Class Council President Aena Khan; Chair of the Board of Trustees Anthony Friscia ’78, P’15; and AAVC President and Trustee Stephen Hankins ’85, P ’13, P ’17. They will be followed by Commencement speaker John Leguizamo, the conferring of degrees and the recessional to conclude the ceremony.
Planned by the President’s Office, Campus Activities, Communications, Media Resources, Facility Operations and the Office of Advancement, Commencement will take place at the Outdoor Amphitheater Sunday, May 22, beginning at 10 a.m. The ceremony will also be available to view on the Commencement homepage, as well as on the College’s Facebook page.