Faculty face a revised farewell

At the end of a tumultuous year, Hamline faculty are doing their best to support graduating students — from commencement and beyond.

Lydia Meier, Guest Reporter

The 2020-21 school year has been hard on everyone, especially professors. Hamline faculty have spent the last year adjusting curriculum for online formats and assisting struggling students, yet even as the semester ends, their role is not over.

In the commencement ceremonies of years past, Hamline professors have read names, participated in the processionals and helped to “create the appropriate mood for the ceremony,” Silvester Vicic, a member of the commencement planning team and director of Sundin Music Hall and Conference and Events Management, said. This year, the commencement team hopes to include faculty in the commencement ceremonies, though it will look different than years past.

There are seven in-person commencements spanning three days, in hopes of lowering the risk of COVID-19 transmission. There will be two ceremonies to celebrate the graduates of 2020, and five for the undergraduate and graduate classes of 2021.

The ceremonies will be about an hour long, with time in between for sanitation and logistics. Students are allotted two guests for the ceremonies that will be held at the RiverCentre in Saint Paul, another break in tradition to end a year of unprecedented changes.

“I care deeply about this rite of passage,” Susi Keefe, a professor in the sociology and public health departments said. “It has always been a desire of mine to be more involved in the ceremonies and I was delighted when the Dean’s Office asked for volunteers.” Keefe will be reading graduates’ names along with Laura Dougherty, a professor of theatre arts.

“Bearing witness to such moments is a gift. And gathering to witness and participate is what makes community,” Dougherty said. “We wear our colors and feel a shared history as a collective… It is a performative act that in its practice is how we get to belong to each other.”

Environmental studies professor Valentine Cadieux said, “I think particularly [commencement is] a nice moment that crosses over this fascinating barrier between family… and the internal community of Hamline.”

Including family was especially important for the commencement committee, but until recently, they were not sure any in-person ceremony was a possibility, including family or not. However, they still tried to communicate what they could. 

“We were mindful of trying to communicate as much as possible, without creating the wrong expectations,” Vicic said. Although excited about the opportunity for in-person ceremonies, the commencement team had to guarantee that safety protocols were figured out before announcing the decision to the school.

Unfortunately, this slow yet crucial decision making process has led to confusion for some faculty members. 

“Over the course of the spring, they’ve been sending updates,” Cadieux said. 

But, many professors still feel in the dark.

“I don’t feel like I have enough information on that, at this point… I’ll say I’m kind of confused regarding what we’re supposed to be doing at this point,” Professor David Schultz of the Political Science Department said. This sentiment was echoed by Dougherty and Keefe, though Dougherty added that she has faith she will hear more information before the ceremony.

Beyond commencement, many departments have, as Cadieux puts it, “physically distanced but socially present” plans to celebrate their program-specific graduates beyond commencement. The sociology, anthropology, environmental studies, theater & dance departments, as well as others, have celebrations in the works to celebrate their graduates. COVID-19 has obviously made these celebrations more difficult, but the professors just want to honor their students however possible.

“As a first generation college student, I appreciate all that it takes for our students to reach this moment. It should be celebrated,” Keefe said. “Our students should always feel the power of our support in this moment, but especially this year as they have worked through incredible circumstances and overcome so very much.”


Family, friends, and the Hamline community are encouraged to watch the graduation ceremonies for the classes of 2020 and 2021 graduation ceremonies, which will be live streamed online.

Commencement Schedule: 

  • Class of 2020 Undergraduate/Graduate
    • Friday, May 7th at 7:00 p.m.
    • Friday, May 7th at 9:00 p.m.
  • Class of 2021 Undergraduate 
    • Saturday, May 8th at 9:00 a.m.
    • Saturday, May 8th at 11:00 a.m.
    • Saturday, May 8th at 1:00 p.m.
  • Class of 2021 Graduate
    • Saturday, May 8th at 3:00 p.m.

Saturday, May 8th at 5:00 p.m.