San José State Hosts First In-Person Commencement Ceremonies Since 2019
Yanet Gutierrez, ’21 Political Science, posed with family members at the campus photo experience last May. She plans to return to campus to accept her degree onstage in December. Photo by Robert C. Bain.
Students from the classes of 2020 and 2021 will have the opportunity to be recognized on campus.
This month, San José State is pleased to offer in-person commencement ceremonies for the first time in two years at the Provident Credit Union Event Center. As of Nov. 30, 1,830 students from the classes of 2020 and 3,640 students from the classes of 2021 plan to participate and mark this momentous occasion.
The 13 in-person events include four ceremonies honoring the class of 2020, four for the classes of spring and summer 2021, and five ceremonies for the class of fall 2021. All ceremonies will take place between Dec. 14–17 and will be live streamed so family and friends can watch online. Members of the classes of 2020, and spring and summer 2021 will be honored on Tuesday, Dec. 14, and Friday, Dec. 17. Students graduating in fall 2021 will be recognized in college-specific ceremonies on Wednesday, Dec. 15, and Thursday, Dec. 16.
Fall 2021 graduates will also be celebrated on college-recognition websites. Each college will have searchable, shareable content, including recordings of its in-person ceremony and personalized graduate slides for all Spartans completing undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as credential students.
Graduates may invite up to six guests and must use the required SJSU COVID-19 Symptom Check Tool.
The university will follow the California Department of Public Health’s policies on mega indoor events, so all graduates and guests age 3 and over must provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 PCR test result within 72 hours of their ceremony (limited religious and medical exceptions may apply). Additionally, attendees aged 18 and older must provide identification to confirm they are the person presenting proof of vaccination status or negative test result, and entering the venue. Masks must be worn by all attendees when indoors.
“Things can change in an instant”Former Braven Fellow Annalycia Escobar, ’20 Journalism, looks forward to attending an in-person ceremony in her full regalia with her pandemic cohort. A year and a half after she completed her studies, Escobar will cross the stage on Dec. 14 as a graduating member of the spring class of 2020.
She said going to school during the pandemic taught her “how to adapt to a constantly changing environment.”
“Having everything switch so fast has helped me in my professional life,” she added. “You have to be quick on your feet when you’re at work. Things can change in an instant. So to be able to navigate through rough times makes you stronger in the long run.”
Her determination paid off: After completing her course work in the spring of 2020, Escobar was hired as a public relations coordinator for a communications agency.
“Being able to close out this chapter of my life the right way is going to feel so nice,” Escobar said. “I worked hard to get where I am today. So celebrating by walking down that stage is going to be great.”
Celebrating family achievementsJen Jurgensen, ’20 MS Mass Communications, is looking forward to inviting one guest in particular to her commencement ceremony: her 5-year-old daughter Riley.
Two months into the pandemic, Jurgensen’s spring commencement ceremony was canceled — along with Riley’s graduation from junior kindergarten. Though she was disappointed that she couldn’t celebrate in-person with her cohort, Jurgensen hosted a small ceremony in her parents’ backyard for her and her daughter.
“I handed Riley a ‘diploma,’ and she did the same for me,” recalled Jurgensen, who works as a budget and program analyst on San José State’s Alumni and Community Engagement team. “We used my mom’s diploma covers — from when she got her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at SJSU — as our diplomas. It was a really special day, and I wouldn’t have traded it for the world.”
Still, she’s excited to be walking in an in-person ceremony.
“After the struggles I faced as a student, I wanted to make sure I could properly celebrate my accomplishments. I also felt very strongly that I wanted my daughter to see me walk across the stage, so that she would understand why I had to be away some nights for class. I am really excited to celebrate with her.”
Fulfilling an important milestone
For first-generation college graduates like Joronica “Jay” Vinluan, ’21 Journalism, the opportunity to accept her diploma on stage with her family present, “fulfills the imagined milestone threshold.”
“You grow up expecting to experience that walk down the carpet and being handed your diploma,” said Vinluan, who helped produce Families Across Borders: A Live Event, a global virtual event that featured stories of families worldwide who were separated by immigration policies.
“Being able to graduate from a university alone is a huge milestone and accomplishment,” she added. “Not only did I want this for myself, but for my family as well. I’m glad that I am able to show my parents that their extra effort to motivate me to pursue higher education was worth it. After walking the stage during commencement, I’ll be my family’s first-generation college graduate.”
Vinluan accepted a job as a production assistant at KGO/ABC7 Bay Area in San Francisco in fall 2021, her final semester at SJSU.
Fellow fall graduate Shannon Campano, ’21 Business Administration, counts paying off her undergraduate debt this summer as one of her biggest achievements so far. She added that the challenges of attending college during the pandemic made her more prepared for the real world.
“Self-discipline and time management were big factors in helping me navigate college during COVID-19 times,” she reflected, explaining that she learned “to keep on going when the entire world is at a pause.”
Campano plans to bring her blended family to her commencement ceremony, because in her mind, “graduation isn’t about me, but a celebration of my hard work and my family’s sacrifices to get me here.”
“No one better than her mother”
After completing her degree in May, Yanet Gutierrez, ’21 Political Science, participated in SJSU’s in-person photo experience this May, which was offered in lieu of a formal graduation ceremony, but cannot wait to bring her family to the Event Center later this month.
“There were so many moments when I didn’t think that school was for me, when I felt I was not good enough,” said Gutierrez, who had the unique honor of being named a President’s Scholar in the same semester as daughter, Eunice Romero, ’22 Business Administration. “As an immigrant, as a woman of color, I had so many aspirations in life, yet those things that held me back made me think, am I good enough to do this?
“But then I remembered, I have a daughter who needs to look up to someone. No one better than her mother.”
— San Jose State University (@SJSU) May 26, 2021