A Letter to Kean's Graduating Students
Dear Graduating Students,
If it were a normal year, you would be looking forward to your commencement ceremony at this point. After years of hard work and many dozen Starbucks coffees, you would be ready for your parents and significant others to watch you walk across that stage. You would be reflecting on the hard work, part-time jobs and sleepless nights that got you there. This would be the point where you begin a new phase of your life, the next step on your ladder of success.
I don’t need to tell you that this is not a normal year. Everything about the past several weeks has been abnormal. The places we used to go and the friends we regularly saw now seem like memories. Even going to class and searching for a parking spot are no more. The insidious COVID-19 virus is not only taking the lives of thousands worldwide and in our own communities but also is putting many things we cherish at risk. In particular, the human touch and celebratory gatherings that go along with commencement are temporarily out of reach.
This year’s commencements would have been very special for me personally since they would have been my last as president of Kean University. Many of you are the first to walk the stage in your family or you are a first-generation American — much like myself. I was very much looking forward to seeing your smiles and sharing in your joy and pride at those ceremonies. But this was not meant to be.
Nevertheless, you are strong, you are committed, and you know that there is a light at the end of this tunnel. And we all must wait for that light to shine again. I know it will.
As you know, at Kean, we take your graduation very seriously. We focus it completely on you, and we try as hard as we can to give you a celebration like no other in our state. This year is no different. Although we can’t hold ceremonies at NJPAC or the Prudential Center, we have a team of people developing a virtual commencement plan that will celebrate each of you individually. The virtual ceremony will not only include the speeches and performances that are typically part of our commencement ceremonies, it will include the chance for each of you to shine with personal messages, images and content that you submit and share through social media and more.
Our team will be providing the details of how to participate in our virtual celebration shortly. In the meantime, we have met with student leaders about your concerns over missing the chance to walk across a stage at graduation. And we understand.
While I cannot guarantee anything because of the changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, I can tell you that we are considering plans to hold smaller, separate commencement ceremonies on campus for each of Kean’s colleges sometime in late summer. This would give each of you the opportunity to walk across the stage and accept your diploma to the cheers of your family, friends and classmates.
We are constantly monitoring guidance from the state and federal governments and will update you if and when we feel confident that those plans for college ceremonies can move forward.
I look forward to celebrating your success at our virtual commencement next month, and if all goes well, at smaller ceremonies later this year.
Wishing you and your family good health,
Dawood Farahi, Ph.D.