UA welcoming class of 2020 graduates back on campus for in-person commencement

Published: Nov. 5, 2021 at 7:09 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -

The University of Arizona is holding an in-person commencement for 2020 graduates Friday evening, after graduates were only able to have a virtual commencement last year due to Covid-19.

The commencement will be held in front of Old Main on the U of A mall starting at 4:00 PM Friday for the first time in over 100 years.

Emily Mccarthy, Senior Director of Career Development at the U of A, said the 2020 students endured a lot during the pandemic after having to spend their last year as students away from campus. She said job searching with a lack of internships due to Covid-19 was challenging and the university wants to honor their accomplishments.

“One thing that was really unique to the pandemic, the concept of virtual interviewing,” Mccarthy said. “How do you assess culture and fit of a company when you’re not able to physically walk the office and get that intuitive feeling.”

Out of the 11,000 2020 graduates, Emily Mccarthy, Senior Director of Career Development at the U of A, said 64% of them are now working full time. Mccarthy said 20% are following further education and some are working part time as well.

Despite Covid-19 struggles, Mccarthy said 2020 graduate employment rates are marginally higher than the graduating class of 2019. She said salaries were higher as well, in 2019 students reported making an average of $53,889. In 2020 students reported making an average of 57,613.

Dempsey Dandos graduated in 2020 with her masters degree in moderate to severe disabilities within the education program. Dandos is now a high school special education teacher in Phoenix and began her career virtually during the pandemic.

“My school district did start online, and I work with self contained special ed students that are moderate to severe. It was very difficult, but somehow we made it work,” Dandos said.

Dandos said she didn’t know the 2020 commencement was occurring and recently found out through social media. Despite the discovery, Dandos said she doesn’t think she would’ve attended the ceremony.

“I had no idea that that was even a thing. I think a lot of individuals like me, graduate and I don’t look at my school email anymore because I have work emails,” Dandos said. “The thought of graduation wasn’t even on my mind, I’ve already been working for so long.”

Josh Arrow graduated in 2020 with a bachelors degree in Communication. He is now a technical recruiter, and agreed with Dandos, saying he will be returning to Tucson for Homecoming but won’t be attending the ceremony.

This will be my first homecoming, so I really want to be able to enjoy that as much as I can, graduation I think is in the past. It’s over a year ago, everything that needs to be done has been done,” Arrow said.

The event is open to students who graduated in fall 2019, winter 2019, spring 2020, summer 2020, fall 2020 and winter 2020. Each graduate was able to RSVP for up to four guests, who must have tickets to enter. 1,000 students will be attending as well as 3,100 guests.

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