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Spread of coronavirus forces NU to cancel spring commencements
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Spread of coronavirus forces NU to cancel spring commencements

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UNL Commencement

Hailey Lehms celebrates her degree as she returns to her seat during last May's undergraduate commencement ceremony at Pinnacle Bank Arena. This year's ceremony have been canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln won't pack thousands of graduates, their families and friends into Pinnacle Bank Arena for its spring commencement this year.

May graduation ceremonies at the university's campuses in Omaha and Kearney have also been disrupted in an effort to stave off further spread of the coronavirus.

With the statewide restrictions on gatherings of more than 10 people extended through April 30, UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green made the announcement in an email and video to staff and students Tuesday.

"We know that commencement is a really special thing," Green said, "and while this semester has been interrupted in ways that we couldn't have imagined, we've been thinking long and hard these last few weeks about how to not miss this opportunity and this celebratory moment for all of you and your journeys as Huskers."

This year's college graduates will be given the option to participate in future commencement ceremonies, either this summer's ceremony or winter or spring ceremonies in 2020-21.

For those wanting to still participate this year, UNL will hold an online livestream with the originally scheduled speaker — Husker volleyball coach John Cook — and allow graduates to tell the university how they feel about completing their degree.

As required by law, UNL will complete the conferral of the degree on May 9, Green said.

The University Registrar will send an email to students asking them to confirm their address by April 10 so their degree can be mailed.

Alejandro Rodriguez Martinez, a senior psychology major from Lincoln who is also pursuing minors in educational psychology and Spanish, said the news of commencement being canceled was disappointing, but expected.

"It seemed like COVID-19 wasn't going to go away and with all the restrictions in place, it just seemed like it wasn't going to happen," he said.

An aspiring school counselor, Rodriguez Martinez — the first in his immediate family to graduate from college — said he may opt to walk in the August commencement ceremonies before heading off to graduate school.

"My family, I think, was expecting me to walk," the Lincoln Southwest High School alum said. "They're excited and trying to plan a party."

The roughly 2,000 students graduating from the University of Nebraska at Omaha this spring will receive their diplomas and also be invited to an online event in May, as well as have the opportunity to walk in commencement ceremonies in December.

"While the ceremonies this spring will certainly be a change of pace, an online celebration allows us to keep some sense of normalcy in these uncertain times and enables us to provide our graduates with well-deserved recognition," Chancellor Jeff Gold said in a message to campus.

The University of Nebraska at Kearney said it was combining its spring and summer commencements into a single ceremony to be held July 31.

"College commencement is one of the greatest moments in a person's life," UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen said in an email to students. "We need to honor that moment for our UNK graduates and the family and loved ones who supported our graduates on their academic path."

The move follows other commencement cancellations at colleges and universities big and small across the country.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7120 or cdunker@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @ChrisDunkerLJS

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