Graduation at Ventura County Fairgrounds ‘allows us to celebrate’

Cate Boller, Reporter

California Lutheran University’s graduating seniors and some class of 2020 alumni will be recognized at the Ventura County Fairgrounds this May.

The class of 2020 had a fully virtual graduation, but this year, Cal Lutheran is working to make a compromise between celebrating graduates and adhering to the county’s safety guidelines, said Karissa Oien, manager of Faculty Affairs and Academic Affairs specialist, in an email interview.

“Our hope is that graduates will be able to walk across the stage, and that is what we are actively planning on occurring,” Oien said. “It will be similar to our ceremonies that we had in the past, where as the student crosses the stage, their name will be read and they will be shown on the LED screens above the stage with their name.”

On Feb. 21, an email from the Office of the President announced the location of the 2021 commencement. The email stated that the undergraduate ceremony will be on May 8 and the graduate and professionals ceremony will be held May 15. The email also said 2020 graduates will be given the option to attend a ceremony and be recognized.

Oien said Oaks Christian High School did a similar ceremony last year at the Ventura County Fairgrounds.

The Feb. 21 email stated that the fairgrounds can hold 700 cars, so only one car will be admitted per graduate in order to accommodate everyone.

“I think it’s a great thing. I think it’s very nice that they’re trying to have something happen and it gives something for all of us graduating seniors to look forward to and it allows us to show what we’ve done and what we’ve accomplished and it allows us to celebrate that,” Stephen Blaauw, Cal Lutheran senior, said in a Zoom interview.

The email announcement stated that certain details of the commencement, such as whether graduates will walk across the stage or watch the screen from their cars, will be determined by county health guidelines as the date approaches. Blaauw said he hopes there will be a chance of actually walking across a stage.

Colt O’Connell, Cal Lutheran senior, currently lives out of state but said he plans on coming back for graduation.

“Mainly just because we had three years of normal college life and then the last year has been tricky, so I definitely just want to be able to cap off and celebrate a little bit with finishing up with a degree,” O’Connell said in a Zoom interview.

Olivia Huffman, class of 2020 alumna, said she is appreciative that Cal Lutheran is giving last year’s graduates the opportunity to come back and be recognized at this year’s commencement.

“It means the world to me that they’re trying so hard to give us an alternate ceremony because that was how Cal Lu has always been, at least for me personally–there’s always room for inclusion and always a sense of gathering in the community–and I love that they make sure to keep that going even in the middle of a pandemic,” Huffman said.

Blaauw, Huffman and O’Connell all said they are appreciative of the effort Cal Lutheran is putting forward to recognize all that they’ve accomplished in their time at Cal Lutheran.