OCCC brings graduation to campus, will hold multiple ceremonies

Oklahoma City Community College’s graduating class of 2021 should probably start their hunt for that perfect pair of boots (you know, the ones that were made for walkin’) because that iconic, degree-clutching-strut-across-the-stage will be available again to some graduating students soon.

This year’s graduation ceremony has been split up into several smaller personal events by division, OCCC Provost and Interim President Jeremy Thomas said.

They are  in-person and on campus, and students couldn’t be more excited to have a place to wear their caps and gowns (and those power boots, of course) besides their living rooms. 

This is much different than graduation 2020. 

Last year, COVID-19 stripped the college of any shot at what many call a proper celebration, leaving only a makeshift drive-up event to honor their grads.

Thomas said that by condensing what is typically one mega event into several mini, more flexible groupings, it is possible to have an in-person celebration that remains CDC compliant.

Also in the spirit of change, this year’s commencement will be hosted at OCCC’s Visual and Performing Arts Center. 

This will be the first time in at least 25 years that graduation has been held on the college’s campus.

In the past, the event has taken place at the COX Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City. However, the venue is no longer available to be rented out.

Where the COX center used to house nearly 1,000 graduates in years past, this event’s new home is under a unique set of challenges. 

Thomas said the VPAC has a socially distanced limitation of roughly 150 people.

This means there is no room for the graduates to invite any of their friends or family.

Other than the students, only five faculty members and the one representing dean are allotted per division ceremony. 

“The threshold for the [VPAC] numbers was based on the six feet rule and how many I could fit in the space,” Thomas said.

He noted he would have liked for all students to be able to invite their families and friends but could not because of fairness concerns.

“We had to pick our largest group and ask, ‘could I fit anybody else if they all show up?'” Thomas said.

“I can’t let the other groups have guests and not that one. You have to be consistent. So, you go to whatever your lowest or highest number is, whichever way you’re looking at it.” 

Though not guaranteed to happen yet, OCCC is considering alternate ways they can foster some form of togetherness on this special day for their soon-to-be alumni and their loved ones.

“We’re working on a ‘parking lot watch party’ where people can watch the ceremonies on a big screen in our parking lot and hear the audio from their FM radios,” Thomas said.

“We think this will be a really fun way to celebrate the students while they’re inside, and when they come out afterwards.” 

The event will also be live streamed and made available for viewing at home for both family and students, according to an email sent out to the graduating class by OCCC Records and Graduation .

“…We’re live streaming every ceremony, so your friends and family from all over the world can cheer you on from wherever they are,” the email said.

“And if you can’t or don’t want to attend in person, you’re welcome to watch online, too.” 

Whether you’re posing for a photo op on stage, or watching your name read across the screen sitting on your couch, the graduates of 2021 have proved themselves to be a force to be reckoned with- and no can take that away.

Graduation Schedule

The Arts, English, and Humanities Division will hold their ceremonies 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, May 8.

The Science, Engineering, and Math & Social Science divisions will hold their ceremony 7 p.m. Thursday, May 13.

Business and IT will hold their ceremony 7 p.m. Friday, May 14.