Campus Life

A New Way to Celebrate

USF ships caps and gowns across the country, around the world

by Samantha Bronson, USF News

Commencement 2020 in St. Ignatius Church is postponed, but that’s not stopping USF seniors like Tara Minaee from celebrating on the day they would have received their diplomas in person.

Minaee and her three roommates — all nursing majors — will walk down their apartment’s hallway after the others announce their names. They’ll congratulate each other, shake hands, and give out their own awards to each other. Afterwards, they’ll eat a homemade cake, raise a glass for a congratulatory toast, and pose for photos.

“We’re going to try to make it as close to graduation as possible,” said Minaee. “We’re already quarantined together, so we might as well have our caps and gowns and make a little day of it.”

Regalia in the Mail

Minaee and all USF graduating students will have their full academic regalia, complete with gowns, caps, tassels, school and college hoods, and honor stoles. Thirty volunteers from across the university packed customized boxes for each of the nearly 2,300 graduating seniors and graduate students.

The boxes will ship out May 8 with hopes they will be in the hands of graduates by the day their commencement would have been in St. Ignatius Church. USF is sending boxes to international students, too, but not sure they will get there in time. Ceremonies had been planned for May 14, 15, and 16. More information is available at USF’s Spring 2020 Commencement Hub

“This is one tangible element of students’ academic accomplishments that we could share with them right now. It seemed an important gesture,” said Jacqueline Neesam, secretary of the USF Board of Trustees and head of the commencement working group.

“We hope students will share photos and videos in their regalia with their classmates, friends, and faculty members — all of those who supported them on their academic journeys — and that this in some small way might help connect them,” she said. “We hope they will wear their regalia at the celebrations organized by their school or college and at their celebrations with friends and family — and, of course, at Class of 2020 commencement exercises, when it is safe to gather.”

USF Pride

Minaee served as the undergraduate representative on the commencement working group, which determined that while students didn’t want virtual ceremonies, they very much wanted their caps and gowns for at-home celebrations.

The Class of 2020 includes 1,279 undergraduates, 1,072 masters, and 153 doctoral graduates. Graduates are from 44 states and territories as well as 52 countries. There are 723 first- generation graduates.

Packing up the caps and gowns was considered essential work by the university, and the grad packages assembly took place in the McLaren Complex, with each room dedicated to one school or college. Volunteers observed social distancing and wore masks and USF-provided gloves.

“There are so many people coming together to make this happen for the graduates,” Neesam said.

Minaee said she appreciates the effort. She looks forward to attending commencement in St. Ignatius at some point, but she’s thrilled she’ll have her cap and gown to mark the actual day.

“People want to have something physical, something tangible to acknowledge. ‘We got there. We got to the finish line,’” Minaee said. “That the university is willing to do this for students shows they want us to feel proud of what we’ve accomplished.”