Falcon Graduation Walk Gives In-Person Graduation Experience


A 2021 graduate poses for a picture on the graduation stage, as his family proudly watches and cheers him on. Photo courtesy of Jordan Costa.

-Jordan Costa

Class of 2021 graduates took the stage during the Falcon Graduation Walk, which was spread out between Thursday April 29, Friday April 30, and Saturday May 1.

The event was in addition to the virtual commencements that will take place in mid May. This by-appointment-walk gave students the chance to be in person in a smaller setting while still having their well-deserved moment of recognition.

The Falcon Walk gave students and their families the opportunity to celebrate in person at the Recreation Center on campus.

The stage was set up so graduates could be called and walk across as their families, and staff working the event cheered them on. Professional photos were taken and will be sent to students at no cost. 

Photo backdrops and cardboard cut out figures of both President Lapidus and Freddy the Falcon were available for photo opportunities as well. 

This was an optional event and each graduate was allowed up to four guests. Graduates could choose to wear their cap and gown or walk in casual clothes.

Over 400 graduates both undergraduate and graduate participated over the three day span. Graduates had to sign up for time slots to ensure the capacity was following state guidelines and everyone could be spaced out.

“We knew from the virtual ceremonies in December that students missed a face-to-face element,” says Fitchburg State Director of Public Relations, Matt Bruun. “And with some restrictions loosening this spring, we saw that we would have more options for this event to complement the virtual ceremonies themselves.”

Neve Palmieri, will graduate with her bachelors in communications media on May 15 during the virtual ceremony, but took advantage of the Falcon Graduation Walk opportunity. Palmieri proudly took the stage in front of her family, including her 89 year-old grandmother who is also an alumni of Fitchburg State. 

“Just hearing my name be called and the cheers made it feel so real and gave the same chills that it would’ve in the ‘normal times,’” says Palmieri. 

Having a personalized ceremony was what Palmieri had in mind as she sat on the commencement committee. Being able to have some kind of in person element for our graduates was an important topic she brought to the conversation, as a student perspective. 

“I am actually part of the commencement committee and I came up with the idea,” says Palmieri. “if we couldn’t have a full commencement ceremony, we could at least get the feeling of one but make it more personal.”

Many other universities and colleges have pushed back graduation ceremonies until a safer time, including Bridgewater State who plans to celebrate both their 2020 and 2021 graduates at Gillette Stadium in July. Palmieri explains that the walk truly captured the in person element and made her graduation feel more personable.  

“As much as the other universities pushing off for a little or renting a bigger space I feel that (our Falcon Graduation Walk) truly makes it even more special than in “normal” times,” says Palmieri. “We are a tight-knit community so it really shows the uniqueness that we have built here to have the select people be there.”

Matt Bruun says that there has been a lot of positive feedback once the event was originally announced. There was also a very enthusiastic reaction of families and students who were part of the celebration last week. 

“We are excited about the virtual ceremonies taking shape for May 13 and May 15, and we think the graduates and their families will appreciate the celebratory acknowledgement of this milestone,” says Bruun. “We were delighted to have the Falcon Graduation Walk as a supplemental experience for those who wanted an in-person element. All of the 2021 graduates should be extremely proud of what they have achieved, and we recognize all of their accomplishments.”

The Graduate Commencement Ceremony will go live at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 13, where remarks will include a speech by Graduate Student Leadership Award Recipient Christopher Brooks.

The Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony will premiere at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 15, where remarks will include the address by Valedictorian Joseph Bourgeois.

Visit fitchburgstate.edu/commencement to learn more.