Graduation settles into new normal

By Henry Shorr

For the first time since December 2019, seniors graduating in the fall will have the opportunity to receive their diplomas in person inside Beeghly Center. It has been a journey for Youngstown State University’s administration to get to the point where it feels that the University is ready to hold in-person graduation for seniors. 

However, YSU President Jim Tressel and Provost Brien Smith believe that the protocols and vaccination rates of the school are strong enough to have this event inside. 

“For this fall graduation, we felt that we’d be okay to follow our protocols and with the amount of vaccinated students and faculty, we just thought it would be safe and very meaningful to have commencement this December in the Beeghly Center,” Tressel said. 

He added the fall graduating class is usually smaller than in the spring.

“The fact that our students, faculty and staff have done a good job with mask protocol, we felt that people would do a good job following that for commencement,” Tressel said.  

Smith attested that the students want to walk for their diplomas. 

“The students want to have a graduation ceremony. We did this virtually before and the students did not enjoy that process. We also learned that many students were disappointed that they couldn’t [walk] in person and invite their family, friends and loved ones to be there live,” Smith said.

Tressel and Smith are both excited to see more normalcy return to student life, as well as to properly commemorate the achievement of earning a college degree. 

Graduating senior and psychology major Sierra Ellis is also glad that she gets to hear her name called live and not through Zoom.

“I’m super excited because getting it online or just through the mail is just not the same for four years of hard work. Walking the stage and getting that diploma is the best feeling in the world. You feel like you accomplished everything,” Ellis said. 

She started at YSU before the pandemic took hold, and now she’s able to finish her time here with some semblance of normalcy. 

“YSU has really opened my eyes to more diversity. It’s nice meeting foreign students. Overall, it’s been a very outstanding experience,” Ellis said.

Judge Aliyah Sabree will be the graduation speaker. Sabree was a YSU basketball player and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology in 2006. She went on to become an attorney with Detroit’s Department of Water and Sewage and now works as a judge in Michigan’s 36th district. Smith had nothing but praise for Sabree in his remarks about her. 

“She’s quite a remarkable lady. One of the things that are notable about her is how fast she has accomplished things in her life — so she is a really hard worker. To garner her accolades at a point so young in her career is quite impressive,” Smith said. 

He said he likes to develop a student-centered culture where students of all backgrounds can thrive and grow despite any struggles they may have experienced.

“So Aliyah — in every way that she can, serving in the courts — tries to find an angle to help those [in need]. It’s not just all about punishing those that have done something wrong, but what is a program that she can find for them to help them grow and move beyond where they are now? So it’s that heart and spirit that we think is very much Youngstown State University,” Smith said.

He added that he’s “not trying to be corny but it’s true — Aliyah makes us Y and Proud.”

Graduation will take place at 2 p.m. Dec. 19, 2021 in the Beeghly Center. Tressel and Smith would like to congratulate all graduating seniors on their achievement and remind people to follow safety protocols.

 “We want to thank everyone because this is so important for our graduates and their families. Secondly, of course, we want to make sure that we all do a good job following protocols and having a good safe meaningful fall commencement and I feel fully confident we will,” Tressel said.