University of Arkansas graduates grateful to have in-person commencement after high school graduation affected by COVID-19

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – The University of Arkansas hosted commencement ceremonies for the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences and the Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences.

For many graduates it was a first: hearing their name called and walking across the stage in person. Most of the university's Class of 2024 did not have a normal high school graduation in 2020 due to COVID-19 physical distancing requirements.

Anna Rogers, a graduate in advertising and public relations, said of her high school graduation, “It was very strange and awkward, and not being able to see all of my friends who were on the field.” “It was very strange to see even my family far away in the stands.”

Many graduates of the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences found Friday a good start.

“Being with all my close friends, and listening to music and choir,” Rogers said. “Everyone is together, my professor, it is very special and very lovely. I think I'll treasure it for a while.”

Thousands of family members present also felt proud on Friday.

“Just watching her become the person she is growing up,” said Jennifer Johnson, mother of graduate Anna Johnson. “I see little things coming to fruition as he grows up, just seeing his passions come to life and seeing him do it himself.”

Now, graduates prepare for adulthood, which for some means graduate school, for others it means starting a career and for one graduate, Sterling Senor, it means marriage.

“I'm getting married in a few weeks, I'm moving to Bentonville and starting a corporate job there,” said Senner, a psychology graduate. “So many things are changing, but it's all amazing.”

For graduates, their future is shaped by their time at the University of Arkansas. Senner said he is “fortunate to be able to call Fayetteville home.”

But now, she and Rogers – along with thousands of others – can proudly call themselves University of Arkansas alumni.

“It's very unrealistic,” Senner said. “It feels like a chapter is closed.”

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