The University has postponed its winter commencement ceremonies, originally set for Nov. 20-22, due to concerns with rising positive cases of COVID-19 and student quarantines.
Graduating students will receive additional details in their Northwest emails, a University press release said, and will have the option to attend Spring commencement ceremonies scheduled for May 7-8, 2021.
Close to 700 students will graduate this winter, including all degree types: bachelor’s, master’s and certificates. Of those nearly 700, a total of 217 seniors registered to participate in one of five commencement ceremonies: 3 p.m. or 7 p.m. Nov. 20, 9 a.m. or 1 p.m. Nov. 21 and 1 p.m. Nov. 22.
Each graduate would have been allowed up to two guests in order to allow for COVID-19 mitigation practices, since an additional 30 to 40 Northwest employees would have been staffing the various ceremonies.
Communication Manager Mark Hornickel said the decision to postpone this semester’s commencement ceremonies was in the best interest of student and staff health.
“The decision came down to we’re seeing cases going up again across the country,” Hornickel said. “Out of an abundance of caution for our students, our employees and our community, we decided the best thing to do was postpone.”
After consulting several resources within the University and in the Maryville community, Northwest President John Jasinski and Provost Jamie Hooyman eventually made the final decision to postpone, just ahead of Thanksgiving break.
Their conversations with local health officials motivated the postponement, as 353 positive cases in Nodaway County, 68 of them being Northwest students or staff, were reported on Nov. 16.
Additionally, an influx of 49 new cases of the coronavirus on Nov. 11, the county’s highest single-day total, caught the attention of University officials.
“We thought that the risk was too great. We wanted to protect our graduates, employees and their families,” Hornickel said.
Even with COVID-19’s continued impact on the University, Hornickel said he is encouraged by the number of graduates this fall and the stories of success he was able to find when working to compile the weekly Northwest Digest.
“We all wanted to be on campus. … We saw faculty being really innovative with their teaching. … I think it’s really a tribute to our entire campus community,” Hornickel said. “We have so many stories to tell, even in a pandemic.”
Fall semester classes will meet in person for the last time Nov. 24, before Northwest dismisses for Thanksgiving break. That week, Nov. 24-29 will serve as the institution's “dead week,” aiming to provide students ample time to study for final exams beginning the week of Nov. 30.