Masters’ graduation is traditionally held in early June on the aptly named Graduation Terrace, where students, teachers, friends and family come together to send off the senior class. This year, as social distancing guidelines will remain in place on the original date of the 2020 ceremony, Masters has adopted a two-fold plan for commencement: a virtual celebration and car parade through campus on June 6 (the original date), and a more traditional in-person commencement on August 15.
Dean of Students and the Class of 2020 Jeff Carnevale said the primary goals when planning these celebrations was to hold on to the values of the typical Masters graduation: recognition of the seniors’ accomplishments and saying goodbye to the community. Throughout this process, Carnevale said he prioritized the incorporation of student input.
“If we’re doing this [commencement] in a different way, it should be in a way that is meaningful and worthwhile to the seniors,” he said.
Callie Leff, one senior among a group involved in the planning of the events, said she appreciated Carnevale’s efforts to “do what seniors want, not just what’s easiest.” Leff added that in addition to replicating a typical Masters graduation as closely as possible, the inclusion of Masters’ boarding and international communities was also a priority.
“A lot of people feel like a virtual graduation wouldn’t feel as real or personal, but we were also thinking about international students,” she said. “We wanted some sort of event where the whole class is together so it’s not exclusive, and we can be connected.”
The exact programming of the virtual celebration is still being determined, though Carnevale said it is not meant to act as a replacement for graduation. A commencement speaker will not address the Class of 2020 until their postponed in-person celebration.
In terms of the car parade through campus taking place after the Google Meet celebration, Carnevale said the purpose is to recreate the traditional, celebratory feeling of recessing out of Graduation Terrace with the faculty lined up on either side of the aisle. This is what many alumni told him was the most memorable part of their own commencement, he said. Finally, the August 15 graduation will contain as many elements of a traditional Masters graduation as possible, while remaining in line with health, safety and government protocols.
“The most important thing to us is the health and safety of everyone who would attend,” Carnevale said. Some anticipated modifications include limiting the guest list to faculty, the seniors and their families, as well as moving the celebration elsewhere on campus where those in attendance can more easily distance themselves from one another.
Senior and co-chair Audrey Lockett, who was also involved in the planning of these alternate celebrations, said that while she recognizes that the effects of the coronavirus pandemic are much more serious than missing Senior Spring, it’s still hard to lose out on a milestone like graduation.
“It’s been really hard to digest because all of our lives we’ve been looking forward to our high school graduation,” Lockett said, adding that it has been difficult to think back to previous end of school traditions because it reminds her of what she’s missing.
Carnevale, though not a member of the graduating class, felt similarly.
“I felt a profound sense of loss,” he said, reflecting back to the initial postponement of the celebration. “I was looking forward to senior spring as much as anybody.”
Lockett said these careful and active responses to this crisis have made her respect the Masters’ administration more, citing the senior class advisors who hand-delivered “Class of 2020” signs to the seniors.
Carnevale concluded, “The most important thing is that we are able to close this chapter of their [the seniors’] lives as best we can, given the circumstances.”