VSU Announces Graduation Changes

Posted at 10:07 PM, Feb 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-10 05:09:52-05

VALDOSTA, GA (WTXL) - In three months, about 1,000 students will graduate from Valdosta State, but this time, it'll be different. For the 221st commencement, the University is changing up how it celebrates.

"I think we deserve something special," said VSU interim president Cecil Staton. "Our graduates deserve something special, and so we set about trying to rethink how we might do commencement on this campus."

Previously, commencement was split over two days, with each school holding its own ceremony. Now, all activities will be on one day, and a university-wide ceremony will wrap up the day at 8 p.m. at the stadium.

"We'll be doing everything we can to make it an enjoyable experience for our graduates and their families," Staton said.

Staton says the driving force behind this change has been feedback by graduates and their families, but current students say they're the ones the president needs to hear.

"Thrusting upon us this late in the game is a little frustrating," said senior Elaine Krivsky. "It's just hard to take."

The university announced the changes last week, but several students had already booked flights and hotels for their families.

"Graduation's changed," said Krivsky. "All these plans we just made are kinda out the window. We have to completely rethink our graduation."

More than 1,400 people have signed an online petition, urging the university to keep graduation the way it was.

"I feel like we weren't embraced in this situation," said senior Mara Charles. "It was kind of like, 'We're changing it.' You just have to deal with it."

President Staton says change always brings questions, but stands behind the move to start a new tradition.

"I think it's absolutely the right thing to do for this university at this particular point in time," Staton said.

"Well, we'll just have to wait and see. He says we'll be surprised, so maybe we will be pleasantly surprised," said senior April Ward.

The university-wide commencement is scheduled for Saturday, May 7, 2016 with a guest speaker, orchestra and fireworks display following the ceremony.

Stuart Parker, the CEO of the United Services Automobile Association (USAA) and a VSU graduate, will be the featured commencement speaker.