- Associated Press - Saturday, May 2, 2020

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Commencement ceremonies in Mississippi are looking a bit different than usual as graduates began to receive their degrees via virtual celebrations.

Alcorn State University awarded degrees to 466 students, including 73 graduate degrees, in ceremonies on Saturday.

“While no one could have anticipated recent events, I want our graduates and their families to know how excited and proud we are to recognize the hard work and accomplishments of our graduating class,“ Alcorn State President Felecia Nave said. “Although we cannot replace the experience of walking across the stage, we hope graduates and their families will still be able to mark and celebrate this very special occasion.”

The university encouraged the students’ friends and relatives to gather online at the university’s website to mark the occasion. Graduates also will be given a chance to walk at a commencement in the future. Each graduate will also receive a package containing a diploma, stole, honor cords, an official transcript, commencement booklet and a commemorative USB drive of the virtual ceremony.

Mississippi State held its graduation ceremony Friday and livestreamed the event to comply with social distancing restrictions in place because of the coronavirus pandemic. The occasion marked just the third time in the university’s 142-year history that a traditional graduation ceremony was not possible, the university said. The Spanish Flu and World War II stopped earlier ceremonies.



“This is not what any of us could have envisioned for the end of the Spring 2020 semester and the completion of an important time in the lives of our graduating class. But we are committed to celebrating our graduates and their accomplishments and wishing them well as they begin careers and assume leadership roles in the world that will make us all proud,” MSU President Mark E. Keenum said in a news release.

Keenum also gave an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree to the Honorable Judge John J. Fraiser Jr., who served in WWII as a member of the 15th Army Air Force.

“Judge Fraiser has spent a lifetime serving the people of Mississippi as an accomplished attorney, county prosecutor and member of the Mississippi Senate,” the university said.

Four Mississippi schools will hold similar ceremonies for their graduates on Saturday, May 9.

Mississippi University for Women’s ceremony will be broadcast at 10 a.m. from a link on the university’s website. On Saturday, Aug. 1, May and August graduates will get the opportunity to walk in a traditional ceremony if restrictions from the coronavirus pandemic allow.

Mississippi Valley State University will stream its ceremony on the university’s Facebook and YouTube pages, beginning at 10 a.m.

“Bidding our seniors farewell one final time before they venture off into the world is one of my greatest joys as a University President,” said MVSU President Dr. Jerryl Briggs, Sr.

During the virtual event, Briggs will address the graduates before conferring degrees. The Spring 2020 Golden Graduates, members of MVSU’s Class of 1970, will also be recognized in honor of their 50th anniversary.

University of Mississippi Chancellor Glenn F. Boyce said the college is committed to honoring its graduates and will recognize their achievements at noon next Saturday.

As part of the virtual celebration, all graduates will receive an official cap and tassel from the university, along with a few other celebratory items.

“It is important to note that the May 9 event is not intended to replace an in-person ceremony and, in spite of the ongoing uncertainties facing us with the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to explore possible dates for an in-person commencement ceremony,” Boyce said.

Jackson State University’s virtual graduation will be at noon. Viewers can watch by visiting the JSU website at www.jsums.edu. Acting President Thomas K. Hudson, JD., said the university could not have predicted the global crisis that has brought chaos to normal operations.

“However, our dedicated administrative leaders, academic deans and student leaders collaborated with faculty and staff to acknowledge our graduates’ accomplishments virtually,” Hudson said.

The University of Southern Mississippi tentatively plans ceremonies Aug. 20 for its graduate students on the Hattiesburg campus and Aug. 21 for its undergraduate students. For those students based at USM’s coastal campuses, ceremonies are scheduled for Aug. 22.

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