University decides upon in-person commencement later in the year

Written By Nicole Ufheil

College students spend years working very hard each semester and dream of graduation day. Recent events concerning the coronavirus outbreak uprooted ordinary life for the class of 2020.

Every university moved to online classes and graduations have either been postponed or canceled altogether. According to the CDC, the coronavirus is spread very quickly through coughing and sneezing. This is why the decision was made to postpone in-person graduation at Point Park University.

On Monday, April 13, President Paul Hennigan published the results of a survey from the graduating class. He had this to say in his address: “Based on the results of a survey sent to the 900 students in the undergraduate, master’s and doctoral programs eligible to graduate this Spring, the University will not hold a virtual event and will wait to schedule an in-person commencement and graduate hooding ceremony at a time when it is safe to have large gatherings and we are able to rebook the PPG Paints Arena. We thank all who have offered their thoughts on this important milestone moment for the Class of 2020. The University looks forward to honoring the accomplishments of these students.”

School officials were previously exploring alternative options to an in-person ceremony. According to Hennigan, “Pennsylvania has issued a state-wide stay-at-home order through April 30, 2020.”

According to Dean of Students Keith Paylo, “We needed to follow state, federal and CDC guidelines for large gatherings. These guidelines dictated that we were not able to carry out these ceremonies at this time.”

Point Park University is no exception to these events. Most college students look forward to walking across the stage and receiving their degree as a symbol of hard work and accomplishment.

The graduating class of 2020 has been thrust into an odd situation and the in-person graduation ceremony is postponed for now. The need for social distancing caused large social events to be prohibited. Point Park officials chose to reach out to the graduating class of 2020 to explore virtual options.

Not being able to have a normal graduation ceremony is disappointing for some seniors. According to Jessica Wrzosek, a graduating senior, “Not being able [to] graduate on time is disappointing but understandable under the circumstances.”

As far as a virtual replacement goes, Wrzosek states, “I don’t think virtual ceremonies are adequate for the amount of work or investment we make as students.

Point Park received feedback from graduating students about the virtual options available. Louis Corsaro, Managing Director for University Marketing and Public Relations stated, “plans are still in development for what a virtual ceremony might look like.”

School officials are trying to find a suitable virtual replacement for the normal in-person ceremony.

“We have sent a survey to all graduating students and asked for their suggestions for a virtual Hooding and Commencement,” Paylo said. “We will take these into consideration and determine if a virtual Hooding and Commencement is possible and desired by our students.”

According to Paylo, the feedback and opinions of the graduating class were taken under strong consideration.

“We also recognize that not all of them would be able to attend a future ceremony,” Corsaro said, regarding the possibility of a virtual ceremony. “We have an open line of communication to all of our students and families, and have been sending regular updates to keep them informed on changes and policies in response to the crisis.”

Before the survey results came in, officials were insistent that a future in-person ceremony would be held for seniors.

“There is every intention to have an in-person ceremony when time will permit and it is safe to gather as a University community,” Paylo said.

Other universities and colleges also had to postpone their commencement ceremonies, as well. According to the Duquesne University website, the university committed to an in-person ceremony in the fall for its graduating class. According to, “the University of Pittsburgh will be offering a unique celebration honoring the achievements of the Class of 2020 virtually on Sunday, April, 26.”