Dixie State, Southern Utah universities to hold in-person commencements later in the year

Students celebrate at the 108th Dixie State University Commencement ceremony, May 3, 2019, St. George, Utah | Photo by Andrew Pinckney, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Although the COVID-19 pandemic impacted initial commencement ceremony plans for both Dixie State and Southern Utah universities, these graduates will still be honored with traditional commencements later in the year.

File photo shows Dixie State University graduates participating in the 107th commencement ceremony in 2018. This year’s ceremony is set to take place at 8 a.m. on May 3, 2019 in Trailblazer Stadium, St. George, Utah. | Photo courtesy of Dixie State University, St. George News

Based on feedback provided from the Dixie State graduating students, an in-person ceremony is scheduled for Dixie State Dec. 11 in the M. Anthony Burns Arena, dependent on state and federal authorities and social distancing guidelines being in effect at that time.

For the 109th commencement, there were 2,021 graduates — the institution’s largest-ever graduating class during this unprecedented year, awarding 2,388 degrees including 17 master’s candidates, 860 baccalaureate candidates, 943 associate candidates and 568 certificate candidates. Of the 2,2021 graduates, 583 were locals.

The top five majors for bachelor’s degrees were nursing, business administration, communication, psychology and criminal justice.

Brett Coleman, a Dixie State communication major, told St. George News when he first found out about the commencement’s postponement, there was some sadness.

“But I was also really grateful that the university would take the initiative to make sure that we stayed safe and recognize that this was probably going to go on longer than anyone would have anticipated,” Coleman said. “So I’m glad they played on the err of caution rather than on the err of risk.”

Graduates celebrate with family members following the 120th annual Southern Utah University commencement, Cedar City, Utah, May 3, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Coleman said he had definitely been looking forward to graduation, part of that coming from a deep love he has for the university, and how it has fostered his growth.

“I’m definitely a sentimental, hopeless romantic that loves things like that,” he said. “So (graduation) was real important. I was really excited, and I think celebration with family and friends always means a lot to me and that quality time you get to spend together. So I’m a little bit sad that I didn’t get that.”

Despite the postponed ceremony, Coleman said this hasn’t tainted his college experience, but rather has made him feel more grateful for what he was able to experience during his time at Dixie.

“I’m glad I didn’t hold back while I was here so that I didn’t feel like I regretted anything,” he said.

Coleman said he hopes to participate in the graduation on Dec. 11 but will have to wait and see how things line up.

“In some ways, it will be like a little reunion,” he said. “You get to see some of those people you haven’t seen in a while, even though it’s only been like nine months or whatever. I think it’ll be really cool to come back and see these people and celebrate.”

120th annual Southern Utah University commencement, Cedar City, Utah, May 3, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Dixie State President Richard Williams said he is excited to celebrate the accomplishments of the largest graduating class to date.

“I am confident these graduates will continue to carry on DSU’s tradition of excellence as they leave our great University well prepared and poised for success.”

Graduates who want to participate in the commencement must RSVP on or by Aug. 1. Details regarding tickets will follow this date.

Southern Utah University has also rescheduled its ceremony for Aug. 8, dependent upon state and federal health authorities.

As the 2020 spring semester ends this week, 2,059 Southern Utah University students will graduate with either a master’s, bachelor’s, or associate degree or a certificate. Those students averaged a 3.49 grade point average during their academic careers and range in age from 17 to 66, according to their website.

The decision to postpone was based on 1,245 responses to a survey, where 78% chose postponing commencement until later in the summer as their top choice, according to a letter to students sent out at the end of March.

In a video to students, the university president Scott Wyatt offered this message to graduates, “sunrise always follows darkness.”

“Life has its ups and downs,” Wyatt said. “You will all face disappointments, heartaches and pain. These are defining conditions of the human experience. Sunrise always follows darkness. Winter always, eventually, gives way to spring. You have wonderful moments, glorious triumphs, beautiful relationships and indescribable joys ahead of you.”

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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