Montclair State Seniors Share Mixed Opinions on Graduating During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Published March 14, 2021
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The Montclarion
The Montclair State University class of 2019 patiently waits for the cue to celebrate. Ben Caplan | The Montclarion

The Montclair State University graduating classes of summer and winter 2020 and spring 2021 will expect a similar commencement ceremony as last year. While a majority of students eligible for graduation are excited, many seniors decided to push back their credits due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

With the transition to online learning, many students have found it difficult to concentrate on their studies. Several seniors this year would rather wait to complete their degree when more in-person classes are offered in the fall of 2021.

Montclair State President Susan Cole and Vice President for Student Development and Campus Life Karen L. Pennington are fully aware of the difficulty students face with taking online classes and were counting on more on-campus instruction this semester, but have not received as much as they intended.

“There is a lot of students who find it extremely difficult to study online for a whole lot of reasons,” President Cole said. “Some of the reasons are that some students just have more than other students. More technology, or better connectivity, nicer homes from which to study, more people around to take care of younger brothers and sisters and so forth. So it’s not equal for everybody. And a lot of the students out there really need to be able to have on-campus services.”

Another common fear that seniors are facing is not being able to find job opportunities right after graduation.

Unlike the 2019 commencement, this year's ceremony will not take place in the Prudential Center. Ben Caplan | The Montclarion

Unlike the 2019 commencement, this year’s ceremony will not take place in the Prudential Center.
Ben Caplan | The Montclarion

Christian Santiago, a senior exercise science major, is graduating in fall 2021.

“With COVID-19 happening in the last year, it made things much more hectic including making college feel more hectic with classes going online and dealing with that transition,” Santiago said. “The biggest benefit from graduating a semester later is having a bit more time to get things settled, and correctly plot where I want to go from this point on. The biggest fear for me post-graduation is not picking the right way forward toward my next step in life.”

Jillian Padovan has a similar opinion to Santiago. Padovan is a senior majoring in physical education and will be graduating next spring. Her idea of graduating later will save more time for on-campus instruction and more time for job opportunities.

“Online classes are hard in general because students aren’t getting that full college experience or face-to-face instruction,” Padovan said. “It’s really hard looking at a computer screen for long periods of time instead of actually being on campus in a classroom. Graduating later isn’t bad since it is very difficult finding jobs now and some people are still out of work and collecting unemployment.”

President Cole and Vice President Pennington are working toward having a completely normal fall semester, unlike the fall of 2020.

“A big part of my day is making sure that we have a full complete normal fall semester in place and ready to go,” President Cole said. “It’s really important that those students who really need to be able to touch the campus in person, get the opportunity to do that. Come to campus, go to classes, do all the things that you expect to be able to do on a college campus.”

Depending on where the world is with viruses and vaccines, there may still be some mask-wearing on campus as well as other safety protocols. Beyond that, the university hopes that the campus life and instructional programs will be at normal.

While there are seniors who are holding off on graduation, some June graduates are looking forward to an earlier commencement this year.

Unlike the 2019 commencement, ceremonies for the class of 2021 will be held outdoors following state-directed COVID-19 guidelines for social gatherings. Ben Caplan | The Montclarion

Unlike the 2019 commencement, ceremonies for the class of 2021 will be held outdoors following state-directed COVID-19 guidelines for social gatherings.
Ben Caplan | The Montclarion

Bobby Ammiano, a senior history major, is receiving his bachelor’s in June and is looking forward to another outdoor ceremony.

“I am glad we are actually having graduation, unlike last year’s class which had their graduation very late,” Ammiano said. “I think the most exciting thing about graduating is that you’ll be going out in the world finding your career path even though it will be more difficult due to COVID-19.”

Allegra Addeo, a senior majoring in family science and human development, is graduating in June. She had the opportunity to work commencement last year when Montclair State had first put this commencement plan into place, and was proud that the university was one of the few schools that actually held graduation.

“I am excited to graduate [in June] and I look forward to utilizing my degree and skills to attain a job in the career of my choice,” Addeo said. “When I walk across that stage during commencement this year it’ll be a bittersweet moment as I reflect on the best four years of college that I could have ever asked for.”

On March 3, the university announced through email that commencement ceremonies will be taking place between June 7 and June 19, but further information and updates will follow later on in the semester.

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