5Cs to celebrate seniors with virtual graduation events

Fabian Fernandez-Han PO ’20 is celebrating graduation weekend by decorating his patio. Some of the Claremont Colleges are hosting virtual events as commencement ceremonies were postponed due to COVID-19. (Courtesy: Fabian Fernandez-Han)

Many 5C students will join virtual graduation celebrations from their childhood bedrooms this year, as colleges across the consortium postponed commencement ceremonies originally scheduled for this weekend.

To mark the end of seniors’ undergraduate careers — which were forced online in March due to the coronavirus pandemic — some of the Claremont Colleges are hosting events virtually Saturday and Sunday and surprising their seniors with gifts mailed to their homes.

Harvey Mudd College has planned a “Senior Recognition Weekend” with small virtual receptions by academic departments Saturday and a speech from President Maria Klawe on Sunday, according to senior class presidents Priyanka Agarwal HM ’20 and Tiffany Madruga HM ’20, who helped plan it.

“We know that these are difficult times for families and graduates as many grapple with the loss of special milestone celebrations,” a post on Mudd’s Instagram page says. “We are here to support you now as you find ways to celebrate at home, and we will be ready to celebrate you in person as we are able to next academic year.”

Scripps College planned multiple events for its seniors, launched a page on its website dedicated to celebrating the class of 2020 and sent the graduates presents via mail.

The first event, held Thursday evening, was a special “Scripps Presents @Home” with New York Times best-selling humorist Samantha Irby, the Office of Public Events told seniors via email. The second event is a musical concert that will take place virtually at 5 p.m on Saturday.

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“While we know nothing can replace the experience of the official Scripps College Commencement ceremony on Elm Tree Lawn, we could not let this milestone moment pass without applauding the accomplishments of our soon-to-be graduates,” the email said.

While traditions like walking through the intricate wooden doors of Denison Library will be postponed until an in-person commencement ceremony can take place, one of Scripps’ treasured senior traditions will happen virtually — a mural painting on Graffiti Wall.

Every year, a student artist is chosen by their peers to paint an image that expresses and preserves their class’ time at Scripps for future generations to see. This year, the artist’s rendering will be captured virtually in time-lapsed stages from May 18 to 22 to showcase the evolution of the process. 

The mural will later be reproduced on Graffiti Wall for the class of 2020 to sign upon their return to campus, according to the email.

The webpage Scripps created for its seniors has resources, FAQs, videos from Capstone Day and a video message from the senior class presidents.

“Until we are able to gather in person to commemorate your graduation, we hope you will gather with your class and the entire Scripps family online to recognize and celebrate your accomplishments, your scholarship, and your contributions to our community,” the email said.

Scripps seniors also received their caps, a letter from President Lara Tiedens and a copy of “Wow, Thank You” by Irby in the mail, according to Nicole Pang SC ’20, one of the senior class presidents.

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Pitzer College will likewise celebrate its seniors with a special celebration on its website at 8 a.m. Saturday, President Melvin Oliver told the class of 2020 via email. Oliver also sent a video message to all Pitzer students on Monday with a special message for seniors. 

“To the class of 2020, I congratulate you for completing your Pitzer degree and even though we are unable to celebrate you under the traditional big top this May, I look forward to the day when we will gather to celebrate,” he said.

Claremont McKenna College opted not to host virtual events but sent each senior a package to celebrate their graduation, according to CMC spokesperson Gilien Silsby. The contents of the package are a surprise and should be delivered by Saturday.

“It’s our small way of sharing a trip down memory lane — while delivering the social warmth of our community and the promise of a bright future — to your doorstep,” a post on CMC’s Instagram page says. “Although it’s disappointing that we cannot yet gather in person for the 2020 Commencement ceremony, we want to celebrate your impact and accomplishments as proud CMCers.”

Pomona College also won’t be hosting any virtual graduation events. But seniors will receive a graduation package with their class stole and a T-shirt this week, according to senior class president Khadijah Thibodeaux PO ’20. She encouraged the class of 2020 to participate in a photo campaign on May 21 by posting a picture wearing their stole and t-shirt using the hashtag #Pomona2020 in the caption.

Additionally, Pomona President G. Gabrielle Starr sent a two-minute video sendoff to seniors Thursday that included a brief message and photos of the class together.

“As you go out into this strange new world where everything seems upside down, I know that our family is not,” Starr said. “We’ll always stand together, and I hope that as you go out to make this world stronger and better, you remember everything that you have learned at Pomona and every way Pomona has shaped you and and every way you’ve shaped us.”

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Despite the colleges’ efforts, 5C seniors are finding it hard to grapple with the upcoming weekend.

Dina Rosin CM ’20, who served as the 2019-2020 ASCMC president and had planned to walk across the stage to receive her diploma in person this weekend, said life feels “scary and uncertain.”

“I miss my strong support system in Claremont,” she told TSL via message. “I would give anything to be with my friends and family at CMC right now.”

Nevertheless, Rosin is glad the school committed to an in-person commencement ceremony instead of a virtual one.

“In my opinion, nothing could truly replicate us being together on CMC’s campus,” she said.

Laura Fleming HM ’20 was also set to graduate this weekend. She said she’ll be participating in Mudd’s virtual events from her home in Boulder, Colorado, but it won’t make up for the lack of in-person commencement.

“The virtual graduation events mostly just make me sad. I don’t think they will be close to the real thing and are just a reminder that nothing is normal right now,” she said via message. “At the end of the day, it’s still just me and my family at home. But I am really appreciative that Mudd is trying to put something together.”

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