SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – This coming weekend, Augustana graduates were supposed to be holding their commencement ceremony in person. While COVID-19 changed those plans, staff members are still celebrating the graduates — just in a different way.

Cheers, waves and signs of encouragement welcomed the class of 2020 Augustana graduates outside the Elmen Center Monday.

“They were waving and cheering and telling me congratulations, lots of smiles even though you couldn’t see behind the masks but you can still see it in everyone’s eyes,” graduate Alyssa Olson said.

“I thought it was fantastic, they did the best that they could putting together a graduation ceremony for us, they made it really fun and exciting,” graduate Jill Schott said.

Typically during the commencement ceremony, staff members line up and form “the gauntlet,” to congratulate students. But since they’re unable to celebrate in-person this year, staff got creative.

“We really wanted an opportunity to bring our faculty out to be able to do the gauntlet, and so we thought if we park a few spaces apart, we can still be spaced out and stay safe and give them a wave,” registrar and associate dean, Joni Krueger said.

Making this a send off to remember.

“A lot of our teachers have been emphasizing that not everyone remembers their graduation but at the end of the day we are going to remember ours the most, we are all going to have this unique experience at the end of the day and my dad said this was more fun than the three hour commencement that you sit through,” Olson said.

“All the really cute signs that they put together, it was really cute, you could tell they all cared about us having a good time,” graduate Elizabeth Petersen said.

Augustana University is planning to hold an in-person commencement ceremony in the fall.
About 150 graduates made their way through the celebration. Students also picked up their caps, tassels, and diploma covers at the end of the drive thru celebration.

There will be a virtual message on Saturday from Augustana’s president.