UAA welcomes the return of in-person graduations

Published: Dec. 12, 2021 at 7:02 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - About 700 students wrapped up their college careers Sunday, but these University of Alaska Anchorage students had a chance to do previous students were unable to do for over two years — walk in-person for their graduation.

Graduates and their families filled the Alaska Airlines Center for the first in-person graduation ceremony since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m so proud of your hard work that got you here today,” University of Alaska Chancellor Sean Parnell told the graduates.

He reminded the graduates how they earned their degrees under tremendous adversity.

“The tests have always been a major part of academics, but you’ve been tested in far more ways,” Parnell said. “You faced the gale force headwinds of a global pandemic, a first of its kind in 100 years, and you forged ahead.”

Other graduates focused on life after college.

“The world you enter once you graduate will be distinctly different from the world that was, when you enrolled,” Tanya Charoonsophonsak, this semester’s student speaker said. “It will be a world that is ever changing, and you will be at the forefront of it all.”

Nearly 500 students turned out at the arena for graduation, while the rest watched online.

“I kind of feel like it’s a dream,” Loricelle Juan said. “I mean, I didn’t think this day would ever come. We’ve been at home forever now.”

This graduation is historic for another reason. The university said in a news release, because of COVID-19 protocols, one ceremony took place Sunday morning, while another happened Sunday night.

“I think this is a great honor. I couldn’t be happier,” graduate Nicolas Donatelli said, as one part of his life ends, and the next one starts.

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