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Graduation Ceremonies Return With Plenty Of Changes

Boise State's Spring Commencement in 2017 was the first held on the blue turf of then-Bronco Stadium
Boise State University
Boise State's 100th Commencement in May 2017 was the first held on the blue turf of then-Bronco Stadium. 2020 Ceremonies will be back on the blue, but graduates and guests will be spaced out for social distancing.

Graduation season begins Friday, May 7, as Boise State welcomes back the class of 2020. Nine hundred graduates will celebrate on the blue turf at Albertsons Stadium, making up for last year’s canceled in-person ceremonies.

Saturday, May 8, two ceremonies will honor around 2,200 current Boise State graduates.

University Director of Special Events Heather Calkins said planning for in-person ceremonies began in February.

“Our public health office has worked with Central District Health," Calkins said. "They regularly check updates and work with the city, and they roll out new changes to the health restrictions and policies all across campus."

Central District Health has asked any event of more than 50 people get their pandemic procedures approved by district officials.

The newest policy change came just days before graduation, Calkins says: Attendees will not need to keep masks on when seated.

The event is designed to be completely contactless — no handshakes, hugs or high-fives; not exactly normal for such a celebratory occasion, but Calkins thinks attendees will generally comply with what the school is asking.

"I receive phone calls every single day from parents, from students who are so grateful and thankful that Boise State is hosting a ceremony in person for them to participate. So my overwhelming thought is that they will do what they need to to stay safe and follow the guidelines because they're really grateful that we've given them this opportunity," she said.

Each graduate had up to four guest invites for assigned seats spaced out around the stadium. Last month, the seating chart and logistical plan was shared with the athletic department to welcome around 6,000 fans to Boise State football’s spring game.

“I didn't really hear of anything that happened that was negative," she said. "We're going to proceed with everything that was successful on that spring game with three ceremonies this weekend.”

One of the biggest changes is for doctoral degree recipients. Normally, the school's dean would 'hood' the graduate, as is tradition. This year, to limit contact, graduates could invite a specific person from their pod to hood them. A few chose their children, which certainly could heighten an already emotional moment for graduates.

Initially, Calkins wasn't sure how they would be able to manage the traditional hooding, but is excited by the unique opportunity they came up with.

She also hinted at some fun surprises, reminiscent of the 100th commencement four years ago.

Elsewhere, Northwest Nazarene will also celebrate outdoors Saturday, May 8, expecting around 2,600 people. Later in May, The College of Idaho will welcome up to four guests per graduate — about 1,500 people — in Caldwell’s Simplot Stadium. Each says they worked with local health districts to ensure plans were safe, and are also offering an online stream to watch from home.

Follow Troy Oppie on Twitter @GoodBadOppie for more local news.

Copyright 2021 Boise State Public Radio