Spring graduates from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette got the chance to walk the stage to the cheers and applause from family members at M. L. Tigue Moore Russo Field at Russo Park on Saturday, Nov. 7.
“It still feels surreal, and I’m ecstatic, and I didn’t even realize that until I was walking off and having the support from my family,” Arzavia Dobard, a graduate in architecture and design, said. “And it’s a one-of-a-kind experience.”
Graduates could invite up to four family members to the in-person commencement, and cheers and applause echoed around and outside the baseball field.
The commencement was also open to any degrees — bachelor’s and master’s in the college of sciences, the arts, business and so on.
It wasn’t a large gathering — less than 200 of the 1,905 spring graduates seated spaced apart on the diamond’s infield — but for many of these newly made alumni it was a special moment.
“I definitely thought for a while that we were forgotten about,” Bailey Chenevert, a psychology graduate, said. “I’m so happy to be here right now. I kept putting off celebrating because I was like, I thought it sounded kind of silly, but I wanted my big day. So I’m really happy to have that right now.”
The in-person ceremony comes after a virtual one held in the fall, which had mixed appraisal from the graduates interviewed.
“Definitely the university did what it could, everybody is in an unprecedented situation right now, but it felt like a slideshow to me, which is fine,” Chenevert said. “I know they used the resources they have, but I wanted this experience that everyone else got to have, and a little bit I was kind of like, ‘What about me?’ about it. I was happy to have the experience everybody else gets with graduation.”
Not all attending graduates planned on walking. Brittany Dickerson, who graduated in child and family studies, had a private celebration with her family. A first-generation graduate, Dickerson said she was glad she eventually changed her mind.
“It wasn’t until I actually got on the mini stadium and they said my name and then I felt overwhelmed and happy and then that’s when all my feelings came,” she said.
“With my family it felt more intimate, because I’m actually able to see everyone face-to-face, and we were inside our living room in the house, and when they announced my name on the TV screen they screamed and I was able to hear them,” Dickerson also said.
“But for this one, I kind of wish more family members were able to come, but I still enjoyed the fact that I got the chance to walk, cause that was something I really wanted to do when I initially was supposed to graduate.”