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UA and UAFS to host graduation ceremonies amid coronavirus pandemic

UAFS will hold a virtual ceremony while the U of A will host in-person ceremonies over a three-day span.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark — Two universities in our area will hold commencement ceremonies this month. 

The University of Arkansas - Fort Smith will hold its graduation Saturday (Dec. 12) and the University of Arkansas will hold its next week.

Each of the schools are taking different approaches to what a safe graduation will look like in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

While UAFS prepares for its graduation, U of A officials continue their preparations to host the in-person graduation at Bud Walton Arena next week, 

UAFS will honor 469 students during a virtual ceremony. One of those graduates, Coby Porter, says it's bittersweet.

“It was a little bit heartbreaking like dang you know I'm not able to fully experience graduation but I am super thankful for UAFS for keeping my safety and our families’ safety in mind,” Porter said.

Even though Porter and his fellow graduates like elementary education major Kayla Thompson will have to move their tassels from the right to left at home, they each say they plan on making the very most of this day they've been working so hard for.

"We are going to do a zoom call and have some Chicago style deep dish pizza and we are going to watch the youtube live stream,” Porter said.

“With my husband and my little boy we will be watching online of course and then I also plan on zooming with my friends who are also graduating with me,” Thompson said.

The U of A in Fayetteville plans to graduate 1,900 students in person over a span of three days next week.

“Commencement is going to look a little or a lot different than what we are expecting for normal commencement this year,” said UA Communications Manager John Thomas.

Thomas says each ceremony is strategically planned to provide enough space for social distancing.

The shortened ceremonies will be held for each college with every graduate allowed six guests.

Thomas says the university looked to the Athletic Department for guidance on structuring events similar to football and basketball games.

“They kind of had a plan in place for how they are going to handle those games and that was kind of a blueprint for how we were going to do it as well,” Thomas said.

Both universities will stream the ceremonies live on YouTube. 

Click here for the U of A live stream.

Click here for the UAFS live stream.

RELATED: UAFS to hold virtual commencement on Dec. 12

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