The main commencement ceremony for NJIT’s August 2020, December 2020 and May 2021 graduates will be taking place on May 18 at 5 p.m. All the ceremonies will be combined in a hybrid format, with both in-person and virtual components. Certain candidates will be allowed to attend their respective ceremonies in person on May 12, May 14 and May 15, without family, while the all-virtual event will take place on May 18. The Director of Development and Alumni Events, Eladio Ruiz 3rd, spoke about the decision-making process regarding the commemoration.
“Commencement is an opportunity for the NJIT community to recognize and celebrate the hard work, talents, and many achievements of its graduating students,” Ruiz said. “To do so in a way that reflects the university’s tremendous pride in its soon-to-be new alumni, while working within the state of NJ’s pandemic guidelines for public gatherings, President Bloom encouraged the Commencement Committee to incorporate as many in-person components as possible into this year’s Commencement exercises.”
The committee has a tagline associated with commencement: “The Best Day Ever!” The members, Ruiz being one of them, firmly believe that and have strived to live up to the catch phrase. In order to make it the ‘best day ever,’ “[a]ll participants must wear a face mask, maintain social distancing and, if they are symptomatic, although a difficult decision, they should not participate.”
Having an entirely online ceremony was the only option for May 2020 graduates, and it was certainly possible to have the same format this year; the committee received a 93% approval rate from the participants last year. However, “[t]his year we were hopeful that state guidelines would permit us to allow students to share the experience in person with their classmates and families,” Ruiz commented.
There was a survey conducted this February for the candidate to voice their opinion on how they want to see their ceremony being carried out. While the majority of graduates expected an all-virtual commemoration, three responses were common among all of them: having an in-person component if possible, sharing the experience with classmates and sharing the experience with families.
Ruiz said that some alumni have wished “they had the current experience as it is more personal; candidates do not have to report to a venue at 7 a.m. and they do not have to sit through a three-plus hour event, as we traditionally call all students to the stage.” The current graduates have the opportunity to celebrate in a more intimate fashion with family at home on May 18.
According to Ruiz, “[t]his year was also unique because of the incredible input and participation by some of our student leaders,” which include Student Senate President Anuj Patel, Senior Class President Victoria Nguyen, Graduate Student Association President John Stefan and Office of Graduate Studies Vice President for Programming Wuraola Ogunnowo.
Ruiz has treasured being a graduate of NJIT himself in 1987. “The moment I most look forward to this year and every year is when the chair of the Board of Trustees confers the degrees and asks the candidates to move their tassels. At that moment, candidates are welcomed to a group I am proud to be a member of: The Alumni Association of NJIT. That is the moment at which all candidates can stand with pride as they have accomplished a dream – a dream that, for many NJIT students, has been in the making for generations.” He also mentioned that this year’s moment will be even more memorable because the Class of 2021 members will be the “first to be conferred their NJIT degrees by the new chair of the Board of Trustees and three-time NJIT alumnus Robert C. Cohen ’83, ’84 and ’87.”
The hybrid ceremony will be remembered for years to come, and the Commencement Committee has been dedicated to making this occasion its best possible version for students to look back on and appreciate.