HUDSON — With final exams complete and grades handed out, local college students are ending their remote studies without fanfare after a semester interrupted by the coronavirus.
The Columbia-Greene Community College commencement exercises that would have taken place Saturday have been postponed to Nov. 28, when the college hopes large gatherings will once again be permitted.
After consulting with students, the college decided against holding a virtual ceremony.
“The overwhelming response was that our graduates preferred an in-person ceremony, even if postponed,” said C-GCC President Carlee Drummer.
Drummer said the college’s plans remain tentative as public health officials warn of a possible second wave of COVID-19 infections in the fall.
C-GCC student Keegan Deyo said she has not yet reconciled herself to the strange reality of graduating in a pandemic.
“I totally pulled myself out and got my grades up, so that’s disappointing not be be able to celebrate that,” Deyo said.
Deyo, a goalkeeper on the C-GCC women’s soccer team, is transferring to Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania, in the fall. But she said she plans to attend the graduation ceremony, which falls just two days after Thanksgiving, when she will be home on break.
The ceremony will be less like a graduation and more like a reunion with friends and classmates, Deyo said.
“It will be cool to see what they are all doing, but it will be weird,” she said.
As fears of COVID-19 transmission intensified, C-GCC cancelled in-person classes on March 13 and moved all coursework online. For many students and professors, the transition to distance learning presented a steep learning curve.
But Drummer said the college tried to take a compassionate approach to helping students through the upheaval, which she called “business as unusual.”
George Timmons, C-GCC’s vice president and dean of academic affairs, put together an academic continuity plan that relaxed some college enrollment policies.
“We had a policy that if you withdrew from your classes for the spring semester, you would have to reapply for the fall semester. We are waiving that for students who have had to drop their classes this spring. They come back in the fall, they will not have to reapply,” Drummer said.
The college is staying connected to students who withdrew or dropped clases.
“We are going to help them re-engage in the summer and fall so they don’t lose momentum,” she said.
The lack of internet in many parts of the Twin Counties hindered some students’ ability to participate in distance learning.
C-GCC promoted internet hotspots located in library parking lots in both counties and put special emphasis on assisting students with disabilities, Drummer said.
The college’s foundation distributed laptops on loan to students who requested assistance, an initiative made possible by funds from an anonymous donor, said C-GCC Foundation Executive Director Joan Koweek.
SUNY also donated 30 computers for student use, according to Jaclyn Stevenson, the college’s director of marketing and communications.
The C-GCC Foundation launched the CoGreene Cares Campaign on May 4 to help students impacted by COVID-19 stay on track to earn their degree or certificate. If the college raises at least $50,000 for its student emergency fund, SUNY will match the donations with money from an anonymous donor.
“We have so many students who have lost jobs and are struggling with paying rent, tuition, car insurance and food, just to name a few obstacles,” said C-GCC Foundation Executive Director Joan Koweek.
Koweek said the college must reach the $50,000 threshold in order to get the matching funds, which will be used to meet a variety of student needs.
“We have been able to help a lot of students and that will continue through the summer,” she said.