ABOVE PHOTO: Pictured in forefront is student body president Tyah Fuller and graduating senior Kelvonn Hucks. This was in the fall semester 2019, during better times, before the coronavirus pandemic.
By Thera Martin
For seniors at our nation’s oldest historically Black university, theirs will be a graduation ceremony delayed. To the joy of the majority of students, while it won’t take place this May, they will get their opportunity to put on their caps and gowns and participate in the “pomp and circumstance” march. Cheyney made a decision to do a survey amongst the students, in order to see how the students themselves felt about possibly having a virtual graduation, an in-person graduation at the end of the summer of 2020, or a graduation in December of this year.
Ultimately, the graduating seniors opted for a traditional graduation. A final date has not been confirmed as of press time for this article.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, colleges and universities around the world have all had to make some tough decisions related to how and when graduation ceremonies might take place.
“Cheyney University wants to recognize the achievements of our May 2020 graduates in a manner that will keep students, their families, our staff and the region safe while also celebrating the valuable degrees earned by our latest class,” Dr. Aaron Walton, president of Cheyney University, said.“With health and safety established as our top priorities, the administration asked our graduating seniors to share their vision for commencement. Results of our survey showed an overwhelming majority of graduating seniors, nearly 90%, supported postponing the previously scheduled May 9th ceremony to a date later in the year.”.
“In addition, I also had the great opportunity to recognize our recent graduates at the National HBCU Virtual Ceremony last weekend, joining with almost 80 participating HBCUs,” Walton continued. “Whether overcoming obstacles or celebrating triumphs, the Cheyney University community has shown a commitment to one another. The delayed commencement in no way affects the conferral of degrees. Students who applied to graduate and successfully complete final course requirements will have their diplomas sent by mail after the Registrar’s Office finalizes the grades.”
”I’m one of the seniors who has been impacted by the pandemic, and I am so glad that the administration of Cheyney decided to allow us to be a part of deciding how and when our graduation ceremony will take place,” Tyah Fuller, student body president at Cheyney, said. “After working so hard to get to our senior year, the majority of students I’ve spoken with are excited that we’ll still get to have a traditional graduation ceremony. It brings a real sense of pride and closure to our undergraduate years to have a ceremony where family and friends can witness our big day.”
“This has definitely been hard on everyone, having our regular school semester interrupted from the norm,”Fuller added. “ A lot of students went home, choosing to do online classes. Some students remained on campus honoring social distancing and doing classes online. It was definitely a new way of learning for many of us, getting used to having our professors teaching us virtually.”
Fuller’s major is early childhood education and she says she’s anticipating a great future where she can make a positive impact on young children, giving them a strong educational foundation. Cheyney University is nationally acclaimed for its education department, having thousands of students who’ve graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in education throughout its history.
On February 25, 1837, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania became the nation’s first Historically Black College and University (HBCU). The University was established through the bequest of Richard Humphreys, a Quaker philanthropist who bequeathed $10,000 –- one tenth of his estate –- to design and establish a school to educate people of African descent and prepare them as teachers. To this day, many Cheyney graduates still become teachers, but alumni also enter careers such as journalism, medicine, business, science/technology, law, communications and government service.