Graduates prepare to celebrate as COVID-19 regulations loosen

Alyson Rodriguez, Contributor

As UTEP seniors prepare their cap and gown for commencement ceremony on May 14 and 15, some are also preparing to celebrate in-person with their loved ones as COVID-19 restrictions loosen and more community members receive the vaccine.

In 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, graduates across the country virtually celebrated their accomplishments, while others faced postponed or canceled ceremonies. At UTEP, the more than 3,000 spring and summer graduates were celebrated with a virtual ceremony in September 2020.

At the time, students took to social media to express their sadness, disappointment and frustration at having to celebrate a major milestone at a distance.

Now, as COVID-19 restrictions in El Paso and the rest of Texas loosen as more people become vaccinated against the virus, UTEP hopes to make up to the Class of 2020 and its spring and summer graduates by hosting an in-person ceremony at the Sun Bowl Stadium.

At first the university announced only two guests would be allowed to accompany each graduate, which made some graduates disappointed that not all their family members could be there to see them walk the stage.

“I was so crushed it felt like a slap in the face. My career at UTEP meant so much to me and I put in so much effort into it. I wanted to celebrate with my grandma because I had promised her for so many years that she would be front row at my college graduation,” said David Castillo a spring 2020 graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in History with a minor in international comparative politics.

Even though the ceremony was virtual 2020 graduates like Castillo and Oscar Sanchez, who studied operations and supply chain management, still virtually celebrated their great achievement with their loved one’s last year and hope to do so in-person this year.

“I celebrated my graduation last year with a small group of friends and family at my house,” Sanchez said. “This year I’ll celebrate by going to the ceremony and taking pictures with all of my friends who are graduating also.”

In an email sent out by UTEP President Heather Wilson to all UTEP faculty members and students on April 22, it was announced graduates walking in May are allowed to bring up to eight guests. According to Wilson, this is due to the decreased level of COVID-19 in the community and the increase of people immunized with the vaccine.

At 7 p.m., Friday, May 14 the colleges of Business Administration, Education, and Liberal Arts will be celebrated at the in-person event. On Saturday, May 15, 2021, at 7 p.m. the college of Engineering, Health Sciences and Science, and the school of Nursing and Pharmacy will be graduating.

The graduation ceremony will also be livestreamed at

Alyson Rodriguez may be reached at [email protected]; @alyson_rod1127 on Twitter.