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SOU commencement to be virtual

Southern Oregon University’s 2021 commencement ceremony will be virtual for the second year in a row but will be different than last year’s mostly recorded event.

The university announced earlier this week that the commencement will be held June 12 and will include a livestreamed ceremony, Zoom parties and will also include a social media element, though what form all that will take exactly has yet to be determined.

“Our celebrations committee looked at some of the ideas that were created last year by various departments and programs,” said SOU director of community and media relations Joe Mosley. “Last year, things came at us in a rush, and we were hoping until late in the process that we’d find a way to do some form of in-person commencement.”

Instead, each of the 1,000-plus Class of 2020 students were recognized with a small sign on the campus lawn after president Linda Schott and the school mascot, Rocky Raider, congratulated the grads by posing with each sign.

Details are still being worked out by a celebration committee, but Mosley said this year’s event may be produced jointly by the school and an outside entity.

“I feel very positive about this decision,” Schott said in a press release announcing the move. “Committing to this format early in the game allows us to create the best ceremony possible to recognize the achievements of a 2021 class of graduates who have overcome unprecedented obstacles to complete their degrees and prepare for successful lives of purpose.”

Though SOU last year decided against the large-scale event traditionally held at Raider Stadium, several of its academic programs held private events. Mosley said the university is reviewing those celebrations to see which elements can be replicated this year. According to a university press release, SOU is also considering building a template for academic programs and departments to use in their own more intimate settings.

“Some of our departments and programs,” he said, “created some really effective and fun remote and/or hybrid celebrations. So the celebrations committee is looking back at what the best of those were and will be pulling the best elements out of each to create (this year’s celebration).”

The school won’t be promoting any on-site celebrations, Mosley said, but will work with the local businesses community on potential tourism opportunities. How that will work exactly is not yet known, however.

“It will be a variety of people, I’m sure,” Mosley said. “It’s just a matter of keeping the chamber of commerce and others — the tourism officials — informed about our plans and communicating with them about how we can cooperatively make some opportunities available for those who will be in town for commencement.

“I don’t think we’ll be encouraging people to come in town for commencement but inevitably some people will show up, and we want to make sure it’s a good experience for them.”

SOU’s Class of 2020 had been told to expect an invitation back to campus for a full commencement ceremony. That on-site commencement is unlikely, but Mosley said the university is trying to figure out how to include last year’s graduating class into this year’s ceremony.

“I think we will be reaching out to the class of 2020 and giving them the opportunity to be part of this celebration,” he said. “I really don’t have any details on that. That’s still kind of in the planning process, but we’re looking for some way to (recognize) the class of 2020.”

Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-821-0829 or jzavala@rosebudmedia.com.

Southern Oregon University President Linda Schott speaks to SOU’s Class of 2020 during last year’s virtual commencement.{ } Photo courtesy of Southern Oregon University