On Dec. 10, Tulsa Community College (TCC) gathered students, faculty, staff, and the community to celebrate the Fall 2021 graduating class. The two Commencement ceremonies were divided by academic departments. The programs were held at the Expo Square Pavilion.
The Schools of Allied Health and Science and Mathematics kicked off the ceremonies at 6 p.m. The Schools of Business and Information Technology, Language Arts and Communications, and Visual and Performing Arts followed the earlier ceremony beginning at 8 p.m. Students, faculty and the staff sat on the floor. Family and friends of the graduates were seated in the bleachers.
The indoor commencement was the first since December 2019. An estimated 850 students qualified for the ceremony. TCC anticipated upwards of 400 of those eligible to walk in the ceremony at the Expo Square Pavilion.
Karla Luna was selected as the featured speaker for the evening. Graduating this semester, Luna has played an active role in multiple TCC organizations during her time in attendance. In addition to her memberships with Phi Theta Kappa and the Hispanic Student Association, she also served as vice president of the International Student Organization.
Initial plans for the graduation ceremony included two events, an in-person event or drive-thru event (as has occurred during previous semesters). TCC, with guidance from its Public Safety team, the campus’ Health Department, as well as state and national officials, decided to continue with plans to return to an in-person and indoor commencement. As described by the school, “TCC is making every effort to create a safe environment and celebrate graduates.” Some steps included cleaning the pavilion between ceremonies, encouraging the use of face masks, and providing hand sanitizers and face masks at each of the pavilion entrances as well.
The ceremony offered a live-stream/online option this year. Jennifer Beatie, dean of Campus Operations, saw this to be an alternative for those who were not able to attend the ceremonies and for others to see the ceremony. Beatie saw this to be important for the ceremonies.
“This is TCC’s first Commencement with an in-person component and a live stream. The college felt it was important to have both options to accommodate those who couldn’t attend in person due to limited audience capacity as well as health concerns,” said Beatie.
Beatie also wants students and faculty to know, “TCC wants to recognize the tremendous hard work and perseverance of our students as well as the faculty and staff to get to this point. It has been a challenging 22 months, but this Commencement demonstrates you can still achieve your goals and move forward in life.”
Live-streaming was available through TCC’s website: tulsacc.edu/graduation. The stream was also captured via YouTube and can be found through the graduation link as well. This could be an ongoing alternative for future graduation programs.
Upon the return of the graduation program, expectations were also adjusted to account for public safety. Extra modifications included TCC faculty and staff seated on the floor ahead of the graduates’ procession. Social distancing and spacing in seating on the floor were done.
Beatie describes, “Our [TCC’s] goal for the ceremony is to celebrate our students for their tremendous hard work and determination to see their dreams through to completion … Several key public health measures will be in place including separating the chairs for the graduates and blocking off every other row in the audience. TCC also divided what would normally be a ‘one ceremony’ event into two ceremonies to allow more distancing between individuals in all areas including the arena, floor and backstage.”
For the Commencement, as similar with any other TCC activity, the college’s Public Health department encourages individuals who develop symptoms or have been exposed to an individual testing positive for COVID-19 to stay home, participate remotely, and contact their physician for further health care consultation.