EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - After a year of virtual celebrations, USI’s commencement ceremonies are set to be held in person this weekend.
The events started Friday with students in graduate programs. Two commencements were held with one at 10 a.m. and another at 3 p.m.
Students have been allowed two tickets, and masks are required inside Screaming Eagles Arena.
USI officials said around 1,100 students would walk the stage this weekend.
Friday morning’s commencement ceremony was the university’s first since 2019.
Mariam Gamdlshvili, a Fulbright Scholar from Georgia, was among the students who celebrated.
She explained the pandemic had made the already difficult task of getting a master’s degree in a foreign country that much more difficult.
“That’s been kind of a roller coaster journey for me,” Gamdlshvili said. “On top of the adaptations of moving to a new culture and a new society, you have to deal with the pandemic.”
Brina Amavisca said even being from the area, grad school had been complicated.
“It changed often, so we just had to learn to be adaptable and go with it,” she said.
Going with it for 2020 graduates meant no graduation ceremony.
But being able to meet in person Friday was in itself an accomplishment for Amavisca.
“I’m extremely proud of myself and my classmates,” she said. “I know it hasn’t been easy with COVID and everything that’s been going on, but we did it, we’re here.”
Both Amavisca and Gamdlishvili said that while they could only have two guests, just being able to celebrate their accomplishments was enough.
“It’s been my childhood dream from watching Hollywood films and seeing this procedure and ceremony,” Gamdlishvili said. “The way this society and this community celebrates a person graduating, I really am excited to have this opportunity, because it’s really a dream come true.”
On Saturday, students in the Romain College of Business and College of Liberal Arts will walk across the stage, while those in science, engineering and education, as well as the nursing program will graduate Sunday.