For the first time since the pandemic started, graduating students will have the chance to walk across the stage while their name is read at Winona State University during an in-person Name Reading Ceremony.
Not only that, but two guests of their choice can watch a livestream of the ceremony from the WSU stadium on the videoboard.
The graduating class will also have the opportunity to begin a new tradition on their graduation day that will include the sounds of a large bell ringing across the city.
With the recent announcement of loosening COVID-19 restrictions in Minnesota, WSU is offering these new in-person events to complement a planned Virtual Commencement Ceremony on May 7. With Virtual Commencement at 6 p.m., the Name Reading Ceremonies will happen throughout the day with a Bell Ringing Tradition following each ceremony. Two guests per graduate will be able to join the Stadium Watch Party to watch graduates participate in Name Reading Ceremonies.
“Walking across the stage, hearing names read, and the switching of tassels, these are significant experiences for our graduates,” WSU President Scott Olson said. “I am pleased to share that we will be holding a number of small Name Reading Ceremonies on May 7, along with a brand-new Bell-Ringing Tradition.”
Although it may feel very similar to the traditional commencement ceremony with stage walking and tassel switching, the name reading ceremonies won’t include speeches, reflections, hand shaking, or diploma giving.
Instead, most of those elements will be included in the Virtual Commencement Ceremony later that day. The Name Reading Ceremonies will be livestreamed with only graduating students present at the event and with social distancing and mask wearing.
After the ceremonies, graduates will get the opportunity to ring in their new life chapter with the start of a new tradition.
“We are ever grateful for the opportunity to gather both in-person and virtually to celebrate the class of 2021 and to send them off on their journey to improve the world.”
“Graduates will become the first participants in a brand-new WSU tradition,” Olson said. “Each time the bell is heard across the city, a student proclaims their achievement.”
The Graduation Bell will be a large cast-iron bell that will be secured now and into the future so only students can ring the bell, and only on their Graduation Day. After students graduate, they can ring the bell and sign their name in a ledger that will be preserved into the future. During COVID, additional safety measures will be put in place for those ringing the bell.
The inspiration for the new tradition was an idea that has been clanging around in President Olson’s head for some time.
“My inspiration was the convergence of two traditions, one at the University of Georgia and one at Harvard,” Olson said.
At the University of Georgia there is a tradition of ringing the Chapel Bell on graduation day. At Harvard there’s a tradition of walking through the “Old Yard” as well as through a majestic gate that is only done on the day students enter Harvard for the first time and when they leave for the last. President Olson said he wanted WSU to embrace the symbolism of a singular experience similar to Harvard and the Univ. of Georgia in recognition of students’ achievements with both the Graduation Bell and the Applause Tunnel – the latter being a tradition during commencement and New Student Convocation.
What’s most important, President Olson said, is making commencement as meaningful as possible for students who have dedicated time, effort, and energy to completing a degree for their future.
“We are ever grateful for the opportunity to gather both in-person and virtually to celebrate the class of 2021,” President Olson said. “And to send them off on their journey to improve the world.”