MISSOULA — Statewide, college students are celebrating.
It's the end of the Spring semester, and many are graduating. After a unique and challenging academic year at the University of Montana, an in-person graduation marks success and perseverance during uncertain times.
Since fall of 2019, UM graduates have not had an in-person graduation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Spring Commencement at the University is reportedly the largest event held within the Missoula County in over a year.
Planners for the event say it was a heavy lift.
“We have a full blown COVID mitigation plan for the event," Maria Mangold, University of Montana Registrar, told MTN News.
The graduation ceremony includes ticketing, social distancing, required face coverings, groups limited to eight people, and more in order to create safety for participants.
UM invited graduates of 2021 and 2020, so they both could experience an in-person commencement.
The event will be held in the open on the field of the Washington-Grizzly Stadium, opting out of the Adams Center where it’s usually held in case of bad weather.
“It just has to kind of run like a tight ship. We just have very specific protocol we have to follow, but it's huge because everybody's exhausted by the pandemic," Mangold said.
"People are so excited to be back and the weather helps immensely as well," she continued. "It's the best day of the year, by far."
Over 1,700 students are degree candidates for tomorrow’s ceremony.
Both graduation ceremonies tomorrow, one is at 9:00 AM and the other is at 2:00 PM, will be streamed live.
The morning ceremony speaker is William "Bill" Franke who'll receive an Honorary Doctorate of Businesses.
In the afternoon, Aislinn Roux will speak on behalf of her mother Bonnie HeavyRunner. HeavyRunner is receiving a posthumous Honorary Doctorate of Law.