The beauty of spring on the Wingate University Academic Quad – huge green, leafy oaks; blooming dogwoods; and enough shade for Commencement-watching families to survive an almost-summer morning without getting sunburned. It’s the stuff of dreams for Bulldog seniors. But that special day on the Quad might be tinged with the red and gold of fall leaves this year, as University officials are considering an October graduation in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The plans to replace the traditional May pomp and circumstance with a fall ceremony are in response to a survey of seniors that went out March 27, two weeks after students left campus to complete the semester via online instruction. The weeklong poll garnered a 79 percent response rate. Sixty-nine percent of those responding want a traditional in-person ceremony, with another 15 percent calling for a hybrid event that would be both in-person and online.
When asked if they would like to have graduation during Homecoming or Family Weekend, nearly two out of three said they would prefer a fall weekend apart from the already scheduled events.
“I want it to be graduation weekend, not Homecoming or Family Weekend plus graduation,” one respondent wrote.
“I’m happy that Wingate is offering to reschedule commencement,” wrote another. “As a first-generation graduate in my household, it would mean a lot to celebrate such a huge milestone with my family.”
Glenda Bebber, dean of academic support programs, said she and all those working to find a viable solution appreciate seniors’ patience and their survey participation.
“We haven’t settled on a date, but we want seniors to know that we so appreciate the feedback on the survey, and we will do everything in our power to give them their special day,” Bebber said. “We are looking for an October weekend that will work best.”
Seventy-seven percent of seniors responding to the survey also made it clear that, even without a May ceremony, they want their diplomas mailed to them as soon as possible.
Bebber said diplomas will be sent out once degrees are conferred and should reach students by the end of June. The degree-audit process had to be delayed since students were given additional grading choices, including a pass/fail option.
April 8, 2020