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SMSU suspends commencement

MARSHALL– Uncertainty remains for Southwest Minnesota State University seniors in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic as SMSU President Kumara Jayasuriya announced that this year’s commencement ceremony previously scheduled for May 9 has been suspended.

Vice President for Advancement and Foundation Executive Director Bill Mulso expanded on the suspension decision and said the commencement team is actively working to come up with a solution to recognize its graduating students.

“Suspended means that we’re not going to proceed with our typical ceremony and celebration that we have in May,” said Mulso. “We’re going to work with our commencement team and committee to find an appropriate way to make sure that we’re able to recognize and celebrate those students’ successes. So, we’re going to take some time to figure out what that is.”

A virtual commencement ceremony is one option being discussed as an alternative to the traditional event.

“You’ve probably heard examples already of virtual commencements or of course postponing it and doing something at a later time once the crisis changes and we can go back to having larger events,” said Mulso. “So, we’re just taking some time to figure out the best course of action is.”

While students await the university’s decision on the commencement, the campus remains open with services like residential life, dining services, the library, health services, student center, public safety all staffed to support SMSU students and faculty. However, the school encourages those without an on-campus appointment to stay away from campus facilities.

“At this point we’re encouraging folks that don’t have appointments on campus to stay away, but we are here and open to serve our faculty staff and students through the semester,” said Mulso.

After multiple extensions, spring break for SMSU students will end on March 29 and classes are scheduled to resume on March 30 in an online or “alternative format.” Mulso clarified that the term is used to describe teaching methods that don’t include face to face learning but aren’t necessarily limited to online.

“They’re not going to be delivered face to face so online is one way,” said Mulso. “Online has multiple technologies that students can use too so alternative methods I think is the term that’s being used because it’s not necessarily all online. It could be delivered in some other manner that’s not face to face.”

SMSU is joined by the more than 30 colleges and universities that comprise the Minnesota State College and University systems to adopt alternative course methods during the COVID-19 pandemic. The five campuses that make up the University of Minnesota system have also adopted alternative course methods.

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