Santa Clara University honored its undergraduate Class of 2021 with an in-person celebration and a virtual commencement ceremony over two days this weekend.
The two-pronged celebration was far different from years past, as degrees were conferred in a virtual event Saturday, after a festive and celebratory in-person procession through campus on Friday. About 1,228 of this year’s 1,468 undergraduate students attended the in-person event, walking the mile-long route wearing graduation robes and mortarboard caps, as well as face coverings. In three separate time frames to allow for social distancing, the graduates each crossed a stage assembled in the Mission Gardens to receive their diploma covers, as their guests—limited to two per student—looked on proudly.
During Saturday’s virtual commencement, the University’s Chamber Singers and choir alumni sang the “Alma Mater,” select students received prestigious class awards, and degrees were conferred upon the graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences, Leavey School of Business, and School of Engineering.
“We are extremely proud of the Class of 2021 for its incredible achievements,” said Acting President Lisa Kloppenberg in her virtual address. “From the moment these students joined our community, they have impressed the faculty and staff with their energy and passion, their drive to find their vocation, their creative pursuits, and ways to make a difference.”
Santa Clara University Women’s Soccer Head Coach Jerry Smith addressed the Class of 2021 during the virtual commencement, a fitting choice following the team’s recent NCAA championship win. In the wake of a tumultuous year, their victory infused campus with a renewed sense of optimism and energy, which Smith touched upon in his speech.
“Much of our experience in this past year has parallels to the real world you will join as you leave Santa Clara,” said Smith. “We all know from this past year, the one constant in life is change. Be ready for uncertainty. Think outside the box, be resourceful, collaborate, and be part of the solution. Continue to rely on your strength of character and your foundation of Jesuit education from Santa Clara University.”
This year’s graduates hailed from 41 states and 12 countries. Valedictorian Haley Howard, a political science and ethnic studies double major from San Ramon, California, gave a virtual address to her classmates in which she encouraged them to forge ahead with a spirit of “radical hope.”
“Radical hope is resilient, and we are already very familiar with resilience ourselves,” said Howard. “We as students have already faced what once seemed impossible throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We have had to learn how to channel our righteous anger into productive change so that we could leave this institution better than it was when we arrived four years ago.”
This year’s in-person celebration was optional, and the events were livestreamed for those who were unable to attend.
Graduate School In-Person Celebrations
On the evening of Friday, June 11, members from the Class of 2020 and 2021 of the University’s graduate programs were invited to attend socially distanced in-person events. Each graduate was permitted two guests for the conferral of degrees. The School of Education and Counseling Psychology, the School of Engineering, and the Leavey School of Business each held separate ceremonies that also were livestreamed for those who were unable to attend. The School of Law and the Jesuit School of Theology, both semester schools, held their commencement events in late May.
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