Updated: May 11, 2020 at 7:52 p.m.
When officials first announced in-person Commencement was canceled, many students said they felt robbed of their college ending – at least on campus.
Since the announcement, seniors said they are finding ways to mark the occasion from home. From cooking special dinners to walking down the street to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance,” members of the Class of 2020 said they want to feel a semblance of GW signature graduation on the National Mall with at-home celebrations.
Shanna Colyar, a business economics and policy major, said her family was just as disappointed as she was when Commencement was canceled.
But despite the hard feelings, Colyar said her family is planning to recreate her graduation weekend by cooking her favorite meal and celebrating as a family. She is planning to help her family cook her favorite meal, chicken parmesan, from scratch with homemade pasta once her finals wrap up.
“My parents are trying to recreate what I probably would be doing with my friends, making my favorite foods after finals,” she said.
Colyar added that her family originally planned to hold a small at-home celebration with family and friends, but they want to host a larger graduation party once it’s safe to do so.
“I think now it’s becoming a bigger deal,” she said. “My family gets to acknowledge and be there for something that’s a really big deal, graduating college. They don’t want me to feel like I lost something.”
Guthrie Edson, a business major, said he will tune in to the virtual Commencement ceremony Sunday, followed by a parade down his neighborhood street with high school friends who are graduating from other universities. Edson said the parade will take the place of the graduates’ walk across stage to accept a diploma.
“It won’t be the same at home because it will be hard to make a day of it,” he said. “Part of the experience is getting up, going to the ceremony, hearing your name called and walking across that stage, and you can’t replicate that at home.”
Edson said he and his high school friends plan to wear their caps and gowns as they parade around the neighborhood. Their families and friends are invited to watch along the sidewalk and cheer them on as they walk, he said.
Honk for graduation
Sahra Maxwell, an American studies and film studies major, wants to get the attention she deserves for graduation.
Maxwell said she will commemorate graduation by creating a sign that reads “Today is my graduation, honk to celebrate” and holding it on the sidewalk of a main street near her home. She will wear giant clown-like glasses and her cap and gown as friends and family drive by and honk in congratulations, she said.
She added that she plans to bring a mimosa or bottle of champagne to pop while she waves to passing drivers.
“Maybe I’ll put [the champagne] in a brown paper bag so I don’t get arrested for drinking on the street,” Maxwell said.
Graduating on Zoom
You may have used Zoom for online classes or a social hour with friends, but Elisabeth Buchwald, who graduated in the fall but still planned to attend Commencement, said her family will mark the occasion on a video chat.
She said most of the Zoom party her family is planning is a surprise, but she will wear a cap and gown and her parents have hinted that they’ll try to replicate an in-person ceremony as much as possible. A graduation speaker and performance of the star-spangled banner are also being prepared for this online celebration, she said.
“I don’t really like being the center of attention,” she said. “It’s more of just giving the family something to look forward to.”
Steven Stanton, a political science major, had plans for his parents, sister and a few extended family members to visit D.C. for the graduation ceremony. But now that he’s in D.C. with his roommate, he plans to celebrate the day with what they know best: wine.
“I think my situation is unique as several friends have said they aren’t planning on returning for it,” he said.
His roommate, Amy Shearer, is also graduating from GW this year and said he made the same decision to stay put in the District. The duo will pop champagne when their names are called during the virtual ceremony, Shearer said.
Photoshoot with friends to say goodbye
Before leaving campus, Ifeoluwamayowa Akinmade, an international affairs major, and nine of his close friends gathered at the Washington Monument to mark the end of their senior year with a photoshoot. He said the group knew they probably wouldn’t be seeing each other for a while, and they wanted to capture some of their last moments together where they would have graduated.
“We had planned a more detailed shoot but had to hurry because of time constraints,” he said. “With the shoot, we showed our different personalities and used it to serve as inspiration for our achievements during college together.”
Akinmade added that he is looking forward to planning a more formal celebration once the quarantine has ended. He said his younger brother is graduating from GW next year, and the two will be able to walk together at the Class of 2021 Commencement ceremony.
“I’d like to celebrate with my extended family like I did at the end of my high school,” he said.
This post was updated to correct the following:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported Guthrie Edson’s last name. His name has been updated with the correct spelling. We regret this error.