IDAHO FALLS — The College of Eastern Idaho community found itself in the same boat as other schools — wanting to celebrate its 2020 class but needing to come up with a creative way to do so.
CEI’S traditional May commencement at the Idaho Falls Civic Center was canceled because of the global COVID-19 pandemic. But the college is planning to honor students by holding a virtual graduation Thursday evening at 6 p.m., and a nurse pinning ceremony Tuesday night at the Teton Vu Drive-In in Rexburg.
“It’s going to be really simple but dignified. It’s not going to look like your traditional graduation,” CEI Dean of Student Affairs Mike Walker said. “It’s (going to be) a fun celebration, and it’s an honor that we’re giving to our students and trying to help them feel like they’re a part of what we’re doing.”
The virtual graduation ceremony will take place on Facebook Live on CEI’s main Facebook page. A video of congratulations from Governor Brad Little will be shown and CEI President Rick Aman and Vice President Lori Barber will speak. Walker and Student Body President Evan Williams will also deliver congratulatory messages.
There are 280 graduates this year, and for those who agreed to provide their information, their names will be read during the Facebook ceremony.
“We’ll also be posting the video of the virtual graduation celebration as well as the PowerPoint that we’ll be using with all the graduate’s names that have agreed to have their names be published, we’ll be publishing that up on our website,” Walker added.
CEI is also doing a “Field of Graduated Falcon” where around 120 signs will be placed for students to stand next to the sign with their degree and their name and take a picture. This will take place from May 17 to May 22 at Hyde Park, which is located at the corner of Hitt Road and 17th St.
The two outdoor monument electronic message centers at CEI on Hitt Rd. and the corner of Hitt Rd. and 17th St. will be scrolling through the names of the graduates for further acknowledgment and photo opportunities. That will begin running the week of May 18.
“It’s not a replacement. We recognize this is a devastating loss for a lot of students. It’s not easy to have worked on something for many years in some cases,” Walker said. “They’ve made this major accomplishment and now they can’t walk, and we recognize and empathize with the fact that that’s really a tough loss. However, we also want them to know that we have this celebration to do something nice for them.”
Walker said CEI will likely have their first-ever December graduation this year, and anyone who graduated in the last year will be able to participate.
“We want to make sure that they know that they’re valued and appreciated and that we can have a good smile, as well as honor them for their work,” he said.
While a graduation celebration is a highlight for many people, CEI Assistant Nursing Administrator Jodene Trimble said some nursing students look more forward to the nursing pinning ceremony.
Pinning ceremonies date back to the early 1900s and are similar to a rite of passage for students to come into the field of nursing, Trimble said. CEI does a nursing pinning every semester when students graduate.
They will have 45 students at the pinning ceremony Tuesday night — 30 registered nurses and 15 practical nurses.
“It should be memorable, that’s for sure,” Trimble said.
The plan is for two faculty members and two students to speak live. But if weather is bad, messages have also been prerecorded. The other students — who still need to park six feet away from each other — will be able to tune into a radio station in their car to hear the speakers.
Similar to previous pinnings, students will be pinned by the person they’ve chosen, but they’ll have to stand six feet from one another and wear masks. A slideshow will also be played that’s been put together by the students.
“They have been through a rigorous program in a good year, let alone this year with everything that’s taking place with Coronavirus. They have worked hard, looked out for each other, rallied together and they’ve done everything that they need to meet the expectations for graduation,” Trimble said. “We’re excited to see the things that they do and are happy we get the opportunity, that administration’s been so supportive to help us figure out a way, to recognize them.”