Commencement ceremonies for this year’s seniors have been pushed off-campus due to construction on the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex. Students graduating in December will attend the ceremony at the RiverCentre and those graduating in May will do so at the Metrodome.
Senior Angie Duffy said she is disappointed she will not be graduating on the St. Thomas campus this spring.
“As students we all look forward to graduation and nobody imagines this taking place somewhere other than campus,” Duffy said. “We’ve made memories here and graduation would be a nice memory to add and a good way to say farewell to our undergraduate lives.”
Commencement coordinator Liz Pojar said commencement had to be moved off-campus because there was no place large enough at St. Thomas to hold the indoor ceremony in December or line up students for the spring ceremony.
“In December, we use the field house for the ceremony and Schoenecker Arena for the lineup, but we’re lacking both of those spaces now,” Pojar said. “For May, we use the field house to line students up and the Schoenecker Arena for both of the grad ceremonies. We need space to line up 1,100 students in the spring, and we obviously don’t have that kind of space on campus right now.”
The RiverCentre was chosen for December commencement because it’s conveniently located and large enough, Pojar said.
“We’re going to use the ballroom at the RiverCentre for the ceremony and the rooms across from the ballroom for lineup,” Pojar said. “It’s a great space for a ceremony because it’s beautiful, has warm lighting and is very compacted – everything is in one place. When we have ceremonies on campus it gets more spread out.”
Commencement Mass for the ceremony in December, which is usually held at the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas, has been moved to the St. Paul Cathedral. Shuttles will be available for graduating students and will run between St. Thomas’ St. Paul campus, the Cathedral and the RiverCentre. Pojar said shuttles will most likely be available for spring commencement as well.
Senior Jelena Tolimir, who graduates in December, said she is fine with the switch in location.
“Personally I wish the graduation was held at the St. Thomas campus, but I am perfectly OK with it happening at the RiverCentre,” Tolimir said.
As for the May commencement ceremony, the Metrodome was chosen because it is one of the few places that can accommodate the large numbers of graduating seniors and their families, Pojar said.
“With the Metrodome, there’s plenty of space for everybody and students can invite as many people as they want,” Pojar said. “We don’t have to worry about space running out or people standing on the field if there aren’t enough bleachers.”
Students weigh in on off-campus ceremonies
Senior Rachel Nichols said graduating at the Metrodome has some advantages, including the availability of seats for guests, but she’s worried the ceremony will “feel detached” from St. Thomas.
“It almost doesn’t seem right to have graduation in a completely non-UST facility,” Nichols said. “I love the Metrodome as much as the next person, but it’s graduation. I want to feel like I’m graduating from the University of St. Thomas, not the Metrodome.”
Senior Alise Clarin said she is upset she won’t be graduating at St. Thomas and walking under the same arches she walked through as a freshman.
“I think graduating at the Metrodome takes away from the excitement of graduation,” Clarin said.
A replica of St. Thomas’ arches, which is used at the Minnesota State Fair, will be brought to the Metrodome for the May commencement ceremony, Pojar said. She also said one of the benefits of having the commencement ceremony indoors is that there is no need for a backup plan in case of rain.
Yet some seniors are still worried that graduating at the Metrodome won’t be as meaningful as graduating at St. Thomas.
“Who wants to graduate at the dome?” Duffy said. “It’s noisy, everything echoes and it’s uncomfortable. The dome just doesn’t have the appeal that St. Thomas does. Will it even be worth taking pictures of? This definitely isn’t the way I imagined leaving St. Thomas.”
Katie Broadwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org