Graduation weekend at the University of Arkansas

The University of Arkansas welcomed family and friends to the first in-person graduation ceremonies since 2019

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – It’s graduation weekend at the University of Arkansas. However, things look a little different this year, or at least different from the last two years.

As the COVID-19 pandemic made its way around the world, many educational institutions turned to virtual learning and even virtual graduation. Since 2019, this is the first year the University of Arkansas has hosted an in-person graduation event inviting family and friends to come join their graduates.

“This is the first one we’ve had that is kind of our return to normal, with people in the audience cheering, being able to hug graduates, being able to pose together,” said Alena Allen, Dean by interim for the University of Arkansas School of Law. “So this is the first one that feels like 2019.”

However, the return to in-person graduation still had its moments of anxiety. Yet once the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance” began to fill Barnhill Arena, faculty, graduates and audiences settled into the age-old tradition of moving the tassels to the left and crossing the stage to accept the diplomas.

“There is nothing like a diploma. It’s just full of hope, joy, happiness and celebration,” Allen said. “To be able to celebrate, to be able to see the smiles, to hear the sounds, I think it’s worth it.”

Several graduation ceremonies were held at the University on Friday and Saturday at Barnhill Arena and Bud Walton Arena. Graduates and their families celebrated this milestone with photos, hugs, smiles and laughter.

A new alum was able to spend Saturday graduating from Sam M. Walton College of Business before joining his family in the audience watching his sister cross the stage for law school.

Matthew Manuel said he breathed a sigh of relief when he heard the graduation would be in person this year, and offered some advice for the next class.

“It’s going really fast, so take a moment,” Manuel said. “I feel like I was just a freshman the other day, so follow your dreams.”

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