Special ceremonies held for 2 Anchorage universities

Published: May. 1, 2022 at 4:43 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The University of Alaska Anchorage hosted a special reunion commencement ceremony on Saturday, welcoming graduates, their family members, alumni, faculty, staff and honorees, for the classes of 2020 and 2021.

Walking for college graduation is something most graduating classes have been able to experience without impediment. However, for students who graduated during the COVID-19 pandemic, being able to dress up in a full cap and gown signifies the perseverance of going to college in the middle of a global crisis.

Graduates wore traditional black graduation gowns with matching black graduation caps — also known as mortarboards — a stark difference from the business casual attire they were requested to wear during their original virtual ceremonies. As one of the original commencement speakers, Jessica Reisinger had to pre-record a speech for her original virtual ceremony. Reisinger said that the first graduation ceremony left her feeling incomplete.

“It sort of felt like my college journey wasn’t really over yet, and so I’m hoping that after today it’s going to finally feel like that chapter of my life is finished,” Reisinger said.

Alaska Pacific University graduated 67 students Saturday morning, but this year included a special element. There were 16 students who graduated from APU’s nursing programs for the first time in the school’s history.

In March, the university received accreditation from the accreditation commission for education in nursing for its associate and bachelor’s degree programs in nursing. Mackenzie Larson is one student who received one of the first ever nursing degrees handed out by APU.

“Being the first cohort, it was a lot of work, a lot of bumps in the road, and obstacles, we dealt with a lot of adversity,” Larson said. “It was so rewarding and just to know that we have kind of started this journey for everybody else to come is so great, and years from now when we see how well the nursing program here is doing we will be like yeah, we started that.”

According to Marianne Murray, the director of Alaska Pacific’s new nursing program, there’s a great need for nurses, especially after the pandemic. Despite the class of 2022 students being a “guinea pig” class on top of attending school through a pandemic, the students pressed on, received help from family and friends, and are ready to hit the workforce.

Many of the graduates told Alaska’s News Source that they either had a job lined up or had job offers after graduation. The university said it will have five students starting a nursing degree program in Utqiagvik in the fall, and said they’re working on a program in Bethel as well.

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