Bobcat Stadium Drone File

MSU is planning in-person commencement ceremonies at Bobcat Stadium this spring. 

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Montana State University plans to host two outdoor and in-person commencements for its spring graduates.

Both ceremonies are scheduled for May 1 at Bobcat Stadium with COVID-19 precautions in place and a limited number of guests.

The ceremony for students graduating from the Colleges of Agriculture, Arts and Architecture, Letters and Science and Gallatin College is planned to start at 9 a.m. with the processional beginning at 8:40 a.m.

The ceremony for students from the Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship, College of Education, Health and Human Development, Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering and the College of Nursing is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m., with the processional starting at 1:10 p.m.

Mike Vasquez, president of the Associated Students of Montana State University, said the students he’s talked with are really excited about the in-person graduation, especially after the winter graduation was held virtually.

“I have friends that graduated in the winter and I know they were originally planning to do it in person but it was moved to online because of the spike (in COVID-19 cases) that happened,” Vasquez said. “Some people were afraid that would happen in the spring …. We’re excited to have a big, in-person event that’s safe.”

The university said the commencements will follow local COVID-19 safety precautions, including required face masks and social distancing. To limit the number of people, each graduating student can invite four in-person guests.

RSVPs to the event will be accepted until April 9, with tickets delivered electronically the week of the ceremony that are required for entry. Guest tickets cannot be transferred between students.

In a statement, Gallatin City-County Health Officer Matt Kelley said the events are allowed in the exemption for institutions of higher learning in the county’s emergency rule. There is also an exemption for outdoor competition venues like the stadium that allows larger crowds with certain precautions.

“We have been contacted by MSU and they have made us aware that they intend to work with us to ensure the event is as safe as possible,” Kelley said. “That work will include efforts to manage attendance in a way to encourage social distancing, mask use and ingress/egress at the event.”

While graduation is normally held inside at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse, Vasquez said he’s excited the commencement is planned in the stadium.

“Honestly, I would rather it be in the stadium than in the Brick,” he said. “Being in the stadium with open sky and hopefully nice weather, that’s super cool. I’m pretty excited about the outdoor experience.”

Vasquez said students are getting excited for the end of spring semester, which will happen earlier than normal since the university didn’t have a spring break as a COVID-19 precaution.

Without that break halfway through the semester, he said there’s “a little bit of burnout happening” with the “continual grind.” But overall, he said students are taking breaks to enjoy the nice weather.

“People graduating are really, really happy that we’re having an in-person ceremony,” Vasquez said. “We’re happy to have family members there with precautions.”

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Liz Weber can be reached at lweber@dailychronicle.com or 582-2633.

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