As the class of 2021 at the University of Mississippi trades their school clothes for a cap and gown this week for graduation, the seniors are having mixed feelings over their graduation and the extenuating circumstances regarding it.
In adherence to the safety measures of the university, this year’s graduation will be divided by academic school, location, varying sessions and time slots. The ceremony – limited to a small number of family and friends – will also require each person in attendance to respect social distancing boundaries and wear a face mask.
Seniors Ariel Riley and Austin Newcomb are among the thousands of students preparing to begin their journey outside of the University.
Austin Newcomb, an integrated marketing communications major, has participated in several organizations during his time at the university . He has served as co-director of special events and public relations for the Student Activities Association, an MPower leader, an Orientation leader, an Apex leader and more.
“This year has been a challenge for a lot of people,” Newcomb said. “Holding leadership positions was difficult.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted students in a variety of ways, Newcomb has faced the unfortunate ramifications of a viral disease. Alongside the loss of an internship in Ireland, he missed almost all the senior year traditions his preceding classes enjoyed.
As Newcomb approaches his graduation session on Saturday at 7 p.m., he is filled with a mix of excitement and disappointment. While the university is working hard to ensure the best graduation experience possible under the weight of a mass pandemic, Newcomb said he can feel the loss of tradition.
“I do not think I will be able to experience what I always pictured my graduation to be,” Newcomb said.
Newcomb will return to Oxford in the fall to begin his two years of graduate school. While obtaining his master’s in clinical mental health counseling, he will work as a graduate assistant for the School of Education. He said he is filled with excitement at the idea of returning to a normal university environment and hopefully having the graduation of his dreams in two years.
Disappointment and frustration from the long-lasting effects of COVID-19 seem to be the general consensus among this year’s graduating class. Riley, a biological sciences major, said that she is also filled with mixed emotions as her graduation date approaches. She will be attending Texas A&M University-Commerce this fall.
In her short four years at the University of Mississippi, Riley has been an orientation leader, been a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority, attended MPower, been part of The Pride of the South marching band and more.
Like many other students, Riley’s college journey was altered drastically by the pandemic. Shortly after joining Pi Beta Phi during her junior year, the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Despite the many challenges she has faced this past year-and-a-half, Riley remains excited and optimistic about graduation.
“I feel I will have the best graduation possible in the current national situation,” Riley said.