New College Graduation

Double Header Graduation for New College at Ed Smith Stadium

On Friday, May 21, 2021, two graduating classes of New College of Florida students gathered to celebrate the tremendous life milestone of graduation. These classes opened with a speech by the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Suzanne Sherman. She used two words that resonated with many of those in attendance to describe these classes’ – tenacity and endurance. Both were fitting for these students who came together on this special day, here on the beautiful Suncoast, to celebrate the monumental accomplishment of graduating from this amazing school under the most trying of circumstances.

Two Tenacious New College of Florida Classes

The class of 2020 graduated from their homes in the early days of COVID 19 quarantine, not able in most cases to see friends or extended family. They couldn’t celebrate their four years of accomplishments, and the school couldn’t figure out how to best honor their contributions to the school from their remote locations. That all changed today, as many came back to make that walk across the stage changed forever by the experiences of this past year. They discussed their college careers marred by a pandemic that stole what should have been the fun of senior year as it did for students across the world. And shoulder to shoulder stood taller, stronger, and resilient with hope ringing out by the speakers for what lay ahead.

The graduating class of 2021 managed to finish school in quarantine, researching and finishing a year-long senior thesis under “unique” and trying circumstances. These graduates would fight loneliness, navigate isolation, and find creative ways to finish their thesis without travel that would have been expected, limited access to labs and resource materials, not much in the way of in-person contact with those who normally would mentor them through this process and limited face-to-face communication.

Yet their tenacious spirits persevered, and the list of fellows at prestigious colleges was read out for quite a few of these graduates. The list of graduate schools, nonprofits, community organizations, entrepreneurial opportunities these graduates would tackle next showed just how enduring their spirits and hopes were despite these conditions. They rose above everything that came at them to celebrate this amazing accomplishment with others uniquely qualified to lend support as they went through similar circumstances together.

A Unique Look for a Unique Graduating Class

Along with the inspirational was, of course, the uniquely New College experience of no academic attire for most graduating students. New College prides itself on a unique, innovative tradition in both its academics and its student population. The programs put the students under contract each semester for their unique education program that sees them utilizing faculty advisors from year one and narrative evaluations to move through the curriculum.

A yearlong senior thesis, independent study programs, and an individual baccalaureate examination of each graduate make New College a unique college that outputs innovative, free-thinking, and independent minds to lead the next generation in so many fields of endeavor. For this reason, graduation is a spectacle of costumes and outfits not of the traditional academic robes, caps, and gowns but clothing symbolic of their future endeavors or expressions of self. Friday was a little brighter for the creative display by this amazing student body.

Spirited for the Journey Ahead

I am proud to say I’m one of the parents in attendance Friday as my daughter was amongst the crowd that walked that stage as a Marine Biology graduate – in a wet suit, no less, despite the blazing heat. Our family and so many others are grateful for the amazing education, experiences that graduates of this college have experienced, and the preparation for life out there in a world marred by unrest and uncertainty.

For a small moment, a large crowd of social-distanced happy families and graduates took time from their new normal routines to raise an ovation to the accomplishments of a tenacious and enduring group of students that took that big next step in life through the most trying of times. Congratulations to all the graduates of the 2020 and 2021 classes of New College of Florida. May you all go out and conquer the world, with this amazing school and great locale always holding a special place in your memories.

Photos courtesy of Angela Naff and New College of Florida Facebook

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