2023 College Commencements Return to ‘Normal’
University of Evansville, University of Southern Indiana, Ivy tech University and Western Kentucky university experience robust graduation and ceremonies without COVID restrictions
Ivy Tech Community College Evansville Chancellor Deniela Vidal started at Ivy Tech as chancellor in 2020, and due to COVID, commencement was held online.
Subsequent ceremonies were held with social distancing limitations, with extra events to spread people out.
“Really, this is the first year where it feels like, you know, the energy and the vibrancy, the numbers — it feels really back to normal,” she said. “So it's very exciting.”
This is what’s special about 2023 commencement season — local colleges and universities are celebrating a return to normal.
This year, the university of Evansville will be graduating 510 students in myriad programs.
UE Provost Michael Austin echoes Vidal in COVID’s impact in previous commencements.
These graduating students started attending in the fall of 2019, only to have their college experience stymied.
“These are the kids who had the pandemic hit halfway through their freshman year,” Austin said. “I think it's really characterized them a lot, it has made them extremely active since the pandemic lifted, because they weren't active during their first year.”
The University of Southern Indiana (USI) and Western Kentucky University (WKU) mentioned a COVID college experience as a defining characteristic this year.
Without social distancing restrictions, USI is holding fewer graduation ceremonies to accommodate the 1,500 graduates.
“USI is just so happy to have folks on campus and being able to celebrate their graduates in person, you know, this year,” said Kindra Strupp, vice president for marketing and communication. She said degrees are either Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science, with 130 areas of study.
Considering that online learning is always available at USI, she said commencement is also a time to focus on hospitality.
“Our commencement is a situation where we welcome some people in our community who've never been on our campus.”
The USI commencement was held at the Screaming Eagles Arena May fifth and sixth.
WKU conferred degrees upon the most students — 2,832 this spring.
“I think this is certainly a class that had to demonstrate significant resilience,” said Jace Lux, director of media relations and university spokesperson for WKU. “The individuals that have graduated in the previous year or two certainly had their college experience disrupted by COVID. But, now what we're starting to see are individuals who pretty much their entire college experience was disrupted by COVID.”
In 2023, WKU is also experiencing a 300 student increase for graduation.
Ivy Tech Community College Evansville is the final area college to hold their Spring commencement, on May 12.
More than 1,200 students are graduating, representing 1,700 degrees, certificates or credentials.
Speakers include Ivy Tech grad and State Representative Cindy Ledbetter and new Ivy Tech graduate Ty Bernhardt, who said his message is that graduates should appreciate their accomplishments.
“My main focus while writing this speech, is I really wanted to get the group of graduates who are there to reflect on their own journey thus far, and how, and just to kind of have a moment to stop and just reflect on their own.”
Other honored guests include 2014 Ivy Tech graduate Gelina Mascoe. Lu Porter will receive the “Benefactor of the year” award for years of foundation and donor work.
Bernhardt will move on to work on his bachelor’s degree and Ivy Tech will work on expanded programs such as smart manufacturing and automotive training, said Chancellor Daniela Vidal.
The local campus is one of 19 graduating students around the state. Vidal said this campus is unique because there are more apprenticeships for skilled trades than other campuses.
“So our campus obviously has the flavor of Southwest Indiana — we serve the 10 counties of Southwest Indiana.”
Ivy tech’s commencement is Friday May 12 at 7 PM at the Ford Center.