This Time Around, Coronavirus Won’t Stop As Many Colorado University Commencement Ceremonies

Courtesy of Claire Teklitz
Claire Teklitz, left, and Elise Madonna pose in their graduation gowns with the Colorado School of Mines’s bronze burros statue.

Claire Teklitz, a rocket scientist in Florida, is among the thousands of 2020 graduating college seniors who had their commencements cancelled last year.

But now, one year after she obtained her degree in mechanical engineering, she’s getting her chance to cross the stage in front of friends and family. Her alma mater, Golden’s Colorado School of Mines, is holding in-person ceremonies for both this year’s graduating class and last year’s. She described graduation as a small, but important moment to celebrate overcoming college.

“College is really hard,” Teklitz said. “There's so many things I like about mine. But it was also really difficult and I'm just so proud of myself that I graduated.” 

Teklitz will return to Colorado in May and walk the stage in front of her parents and brother. The School of Mines is holding multiple ceremonies to meet health and safety guidelines, as well as limiting the number of guests each graduate is allowed to bring.

“Mines is pleased to be able to hold in-person commencement ceremonies this spring, and we continue to work closely with local health officials to ensure all the latest health and safety guidelines are considered as we finalize our plans,” the college’s chief of staff Peter Han said.

The School of Mines is far from the only college planning to celebrate its graduates. Most Colorado universities have announced plans for commencements, or other in-person graduation events, this spring. Several are also inviting 2020 graduates to return to make up for last year’s cancellations.

That’s not to say the pandemic has ended. While vaccination efforts are going smoothly, cases are back on the rise among young people and new variants from different regions are showing up in the state. Nonetheless, the state’s COVID-19 dial, which was tweaked last month to loosen restrictions, allows most counties to hold indoor or outdoor gatherings with limited capacity.

Some schools with large student populations, like University of Colorado at Boulder and Colorado State University, will be holding virtual commencement ceremonies with no students in attendance and instead throw smaller in-person events. 

Under current COVID-19 restrictions, Metropolitan State University of Denver isn’t able to plan a traditional commencement, with a speaker line-up and a long stage-crossing ceremony. Instead, they split the two main components of graduation into separate events.

“That walk across the stage is usually what students look forward to the most,” MSU events manager Cora Potter said. “We reserved keynote speeches, our student award winner speeches, our new Marathon Award and remarks from Dr. Davidson and our board of trustees for that virtual ceremony the next week.”

At MSU’s stage-crossing ceremony, called “Paint the Town Red”, it will look very much like a normal graduation, minus a large crowd. Students will wear graduation regalia and receive their diploma cover from the president of the university. Only this year, they’ll be foregoing handshakes and opt instead for fist or elbow bumps.