Commencement celebrations to ramble on

Before COVID-19 limited indoor ceremonies, commencement was held in McCamish Pavilion, which allowed for festivities like the balloon drop. Some traditions like this will no loner be possible in modified ceremonies. // Photo by Allie Ghisson, Student Publications

Tech is once again planning for an in-person, socially distanced commencement ceremony this spring and also intends to host a COVID-safe Ramblin’ On party in April.

Similar to last Dec., commencement will be hosted in Bobby Dodd Stadium so that graduates and guests can socially distance. The event will also be hosted over two days, with the Ph.D. and master’s ceremonies held on May 7, and the undergraduate ceremonies held the following day on May 8. There will be a morning and afternoon session for each day.

Guests are encouraged to come prepared for the Atlanta weather, as the event will happen outdoors rain or shine. In the December ceremonies, the drizzle did not impact the order of ceremonies, however some graduates expressed annoyance about having to sit in the rain for their turn to walk across the stage.

Many of the same COVID precautions will be exercised at the ceremonies as in Dec., such as mandatory face masks, six feet of social distancing between all attendees and limited touchpoints. There will be no student processional, and students will not shake hands with Institutional leadership or be hooded by their advisor during their walk. Graduates and guests attending the event are encouraged to get tested for COVID three days ahead of the ceremony.

All 2020 and 2021 graduates have the option to walk in this ceremony, or they can defer to the fall commencement ceremony. The normal RSVP period for the ceremony has closed, but students can currently submit a late RSVP request. Commencement will be outside in the open-air stadium and will occur rain or shine.

Since the commencement is split into four different ceremonies, the Institute has invited four different speakers to address the graduating class. PhD graduates will hear from Ryan Gravel, the founder of Sixpitch, a successful urban design and infrastructure firm. Later that afternoon, Stacey A. Dixon, deputy director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency will address the audience.

Undergraduate students in the morning will hear from Delta CEO Ed Bastian, while afternoon commencement attendees get to listen to Paul Judge, who co-founded TechSquare Labs and Pindrop.

Graduates are able to invite 5 guests to the ceremony to celebrate with them, who will be seated together in a pod to allow for social distancing. They can reserve guest mobile tickets by selecting a zone on the student athletics ticketing site. Seats are assigned on a first come, first serve basis, so students should check their emails to see instructions on how to claim a superior spot for their guests.

One change from recent commencements is the return of Ramblin’ On, the annual graduation party hosted by the Georgia Tech Alumni Association. This event will also be altered to align with COVID safety rules and only offered to 2021 graduates.

“This year, we are limiting the number [of attendees] to just 1,600 graduating students and no guests,” said Savannah Lockman, student engagement coordinator for the Georgia Tech Alumni Association. “Masks will be required, and stadium staff will maintain social distancing,” she said.

Lockman also said students will walk through a one-way concourse during the event, first being allowed to take photos and then getting food before sitting down for a program and fireworks. There will be sanitizing stations and personal protective equipment (PPE) available throughout the event. The event was cancelled last spring because of the uncertainty around COVID near the beginning of the pandemic, according to Lockman.

“Now, we are following established guidelines from the Institute and CDC to make sure it meets their standards for a safe event,” Lockman said.
She said she hopes that the 2020 graduates were still able to get involved in the Alumni Association even though they missed out on their Ramblin’ On party. This year’s celebration is taking place on April 15 from 7-9 pm. All 2021 graduates, for both this semester and upcoming summer or fall, can now register for the event, but they must register before April 12 or whenever tickets sell out. Tickets are now $10 for all attendees.

At the event, attendees can enjoy free catered Chick-fil-A, games, photo opportunities with the Reck and even a fireworks display for “one helluva celebration.”

There will also be an information session on how to stay connected to Tech after commencement, given by President of the Alumni Association, Dean Sheheane.

With in-person commencement and the Ramblin’ On party, graduate activities are slowly moving back to pre-pandemic standards.

With Tech opting for fully in-person classes for the fall semester, fall commencement may resemble a much more normal ceremony than the past year has yielded.

Whether the fall graduation option will be held back in McCamish, as it has been in previous years, or not has not yet been announced. In the mean time, modified commencement continues.