Graduation 2021

‘I never really believed it could happen to me’

Leonard Brox, a liberal studies graduate from Milwaukee, salutes the crowd as he crosses the stage at UW-Whitewaters commencement Saturday, May 18, 2019, in Kachel Fieldhouse.
(UW-Whitewater photo/Andy Manis)

Andy Manis

Leonard Brox, a liberal studies graduate from Milwaukee, salutes the crowd as he crosses the stage at UW-Whitewater’s commencement Saturday, May 18, 2019, in Kachel Fieldhouse. (UW-Whitewater photo/Andy Manis)

Jacob Bessette, Journalist

When a student enters college they arrive with the goal of graduation, which holds some symbolic traditions in the time-honored ceremony. These include receiving that important piece of paper called a diploma, walking the stage and moving the tassel from one side of the mortarboard to the other. These traditions represent an important passage onto the next stage of life.

Although this spring the graduating students of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater will not have a traditional commencement ceremony, they will still have a way to walk the stage and partake in these important traditions. 

Graduating students will be reporting to either the Young Auditorium or the Kachel Fieldhouse this semester to record their graduation ceremony. On Friday, May 14, the students of UW- Whitewater will have their commencement ceremony recorded for play back the next day on Saturday, May 15. 

“It’s definitely going to be weird, but at least we get to do something,” graduating senior Tristan Koepsel said. “I still get to have the cap and gown, get my diploma and all of that, it’s just that my parents will only get to watch it and not be there when it really happens.”

Koepsel is still happy that he will get to have something that resembles a traditional experience when receiving his diploma.  Family and friends will then be able to view the recording on UW-Whitewater’s web page after 1 p.m. Saturday, May 15.  

“It’s definitely not what I envisioned four years ago, but still getting to see him walk the stage and see that he’s finally done will still be great,” said proud father Marc Koepsel. “Obviously it would be better if we were actually there watching, but it’s nice we have at least this.”

He will be watching along with other parents of the nearly 2,000 students matriculating this spring. 

Whitewater is not alone in having to adjust its commencement ceremonies this spring. UW-Milwaukee will feature many speakers similar to Whitewater, but will hold a virtual graduation that will be solely streamed for people to watch.  Photos of UW-M students will be submitted and inserted into the graduation ceremony video.  UW-Oshkosh will offer in-person attendance following social distancing and COVID-19 safety protocols.  It will also be splitting up the time for commencement ceremonies by certain majors to limit the amount of social contact with families and friends in the crowd. 

Similar to the students who will walk the stage, the ceremonial student speaker for graduation, Annmarie Lavorata, also pre-recorded her speech to be played on the video. Despite not being able to speak in front of her fellow graduates, Lavorata is still excited about the opportunity.

I am so honored to be chosen as the speaker.  I carry around a journal and in it I have written ‘I will give the graduation speech,’ dated November of 2018,” she said. “I never really believed it could happen to me.” 

Lavorata has worked with UWW-TV for the last few years and kept busy as an analyst and commentator for Whitewater’s football, basketball and softball teams.  

“Thank you to all my professors and coworkers who pushed me to be the very best. Without their support I couldn’t have done it,” said Lavorata. “I hope my speech inspires people to be a good person, to help others, and always strive to learn,” said Lavorata.