SMC plans to host in-person, outdoor graduation ceremonies

DOWAGIAC – Southwestern Michigan College President Joe Odenwald is optimistic about vaccine distributions and is planning to host in-person graduation ceremonies outdoors in the spring.

The graduation ceremonies will celebrate those that have already obtained their degrees, but Odenwald hopes it will inspire family members and younger, potentially future students, to see what their loved ones have accomplished.

The college continues to address COVID-19 precautions as it looks forward, but Odenwald is optimistic about the Fall 2021.

“We’ve been blessed with no indicators of community spread [of COVID-19] on campus,” Odenwald said. “We’ve demonstrated that [the added safety protocols] work, as long as they are followed.”

With changes made throughout the past year due to COVID-19, Odenwald said class offerings are currently around 20 percent online, 30 percent hybrid in-person/online offering, and the last 50 percent are still hosted in person.

“The faculty has worked hard to create online content with quality, that is not just PowerPoint presentations,” Odenwald said.

He said the online course has a success rate close to that of in-person courses. The programs are intended to continue to engage students in their coursework.
The added cleaning measures between classes and the lack of study groups and community gatherings has been tough on both the staff and student population this past year.

With vaccine distribution continuing, Odenwald hopes there will be a bit more “normalcy” on campus in the fall, even with precautions in place.

For the outdoor, in-person graduations, Odenwald said spring 2020 graduates will be invited to participate, as they were celebrated with a virtual-only ceremony. He anticipates the graduation to be split between the three schools on campus, arts and sciences, nursing and business and technology. The division will allow for more spacing outdoors between students and limited attendees.

“This is important not just for students, but also family members and younger family members to see that graduation ceremony,” Odenwald said.

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