FIU Hosts First In-Person Graduation Since Start of Pandemic

Architecture graduates Neil Mayorga and Sarah Sassen cheer when their names are called while walking across stage. Jesse Fraga / PantherNOW.

Jordan Coll/News Director and Jesse Fraga/Assistant News Director

“We are back! We are back! We are back!,” shouted FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg, as 2020 and spring 2021 student graduates moved their tassels to the side in celebration of the first in-person graduation ever since the start of the pandemic.

Over 200 graduates attended the commencement ceremony at the Ricardo Silva Stadium located at the Modesto Maidique Campus on Saturday, April 24.

President Rosenberg presents opening remarks. Jesse Fraga / PantherNOW.

“This graduation deepens our efforts as a community to move forward despite the pandemic and we are here to celebrate our graduates,” said Rosenberg.

Students sat six feet apart across the football field in compliance with the university COVID-19 guidelines, however, social distancing measures were not enforced for audience members who sat in the bleachers.

Seats spread six feet apart across stadium as stage is projected onto jumbotron. Jesse Fraga / PantherNOW.

Graduates of FIU Medicine take selfie minutes before the Commencement Ceremony began. Pictured: Amanda Rodriguez, Larissa Andrade, Nicole Miller, Mark Maguire, Ryan Geffin, Stephanie Hernandez, Jeffery Turley, Samantha Kay-Green, and Scott Leary. Jesse Fraga / PantherNOW.

Jennifer Tamayo, a business administration graduate, was grateful but surprised to finally celebrate in-person.

“I didn’t think this was going to happen,” said Tamayo. “It’s honestly awesome, even though we had to practice social distancing… it’s awesome that we’re here.”

Jennifer Tamayo, a business administration graduate, honors her father with a floral themed cap stating, ‘Dad, I mastered it for you.’” Jesse Fraga / PantherNOW.

Matheus Stancati, an architecture graduate, said he was inspired by FIU’s values of upward mobility and innovation to create a miniature city on his cap.

“Well the whole [FIU] motto is ‘world’s ahead’ so I thought of literally having worlds in my head with a little fun,” said Stancati. “[Architecture is] the idea that we can… design the reality we want to live in. This is the major… to change the world around us.”

Architecture graduate Matheus Stancati wears decorated cap with a miniature model of a city. He sits beside architecture graduates Alex Bahensky and Miguel Fonte while listening to Rosenberg’s opening remarks. Jesse Fraga / PantherNOW.

Laura Hoelscher, a master’s in higher education administration student, graduated in April 2020, but was unable to celebrate in person until now.

“I’m so grateful that I was given the chance to walk in commencement a year later and gain some closure for a very important chapter of my life,” said Hoelscher.

Laura Hoelscher and Daniel Pino graduating together with masters’ in higher education administration. Jesse Fraga / PantherNOW.

Samantha Cepoudy FIU graduate of master’s in higher education. Jordan Coll / PantherNOW.

Samantha Cepoudy, an FIU graduate received her master’s in higher administration education had been accustomed to learning remotely prior to the pandemic  as her program was fully online. 

“I was already used to the online format but I was really happy that the university was able to put an in person one for us, for those who couldn’t attend last year,” said Cepoudy. “Last year was a very challenging year due to the pandemic but nonetheless I made it and I am here in celebration.”

2020-2021 Graduates Photo Series:

Graduates from the FIU Department of Architecture featuring Richard Gauthreaux, Sammy Almasri, Maria Pedraza, Yulia Forbes, Olena Variation, and Pedro Rojas. Jordan Coll / PantherNOW. 

Student waves to audience while walking across stage. Jesse Fraga / PantherNOW.

Daniel Tokarev, graduating with a master’s in business administration, holds a teddy bear dressed in cap and gown. Jesse Fraga / PantherNOW.

FIU student Steven Estrada, an active veteran in the FIU ROTC program and graduating with a master’s in human resources. Jordan Coll / PantherNOW.

Master’s graduates Ashley Ansen, Isabella Sanchez, Lizzette Torrico, Tomas Gonzalez, and Alan Nick Alvarez pose together after turning their tassels. Jesse Fraga / PantherNOW.

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