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University prepares for first in-person midyear completion ceremony since pandemic

University cites COVID-19 for expected 33% increase in midyear graduates

The University will hold its annual midyear completion ceremony Dec. 11, with the ceremony being in-person for the first time since the pandemic began, according to Assistant Dean of Curricular Programs Janet Peters. The number of students participating in the ceremony, which celebrates those completing their degree requirements at the end of this semester, is expected to be up 33% from last year, which Peters attributed to the pandemic.

 The ceremony, which is separate from the formal commencement event in May, is meant to celebrate the nearly 160 students who will fulfill their requirements in the middle of the year, Peters wrote in an email to The Herald. The graduation in May represents a student’s official commencement from the University, while the midyear completion ceremony “offers you a different kind of closure, recognizing the completion of your degrees and the unique paths you have taken through Brown,” according to the University website

“This year’s event will return to an in-person format, with a livestream for those who cannot attend in person,” Peters wrote. But the typical reception that follows the ceremony will not occur due to “present complexities of serving food to a large group” during the pandemic. 

Students who graduate in the fall semester do so for a multitude of reasons, including taking leaves of absence or enrolling at the University midyear as transfer or Resumed Undergraduate Education students, according to Peters. 

Some students who spoke to The Herald about their participation in the ceremony said they took semester-long leaves to pursue their personal and intellectual interests, while others took an extra semester to gain more knowledge before entering the job market.

Esther Kim ’21.5 spent the summer and fall of 2020 as a software engineering intern in Korea. “Taking a leave was a really good decision for thinking about what I wanted,” Kim said. “When you’re in college, … there’s not much time to figure yourself out.”

Some students needed to complete requirements or wanted to get extra experience before graduating college. Ryan Putman ’21.5 said he took an extra semester to prepare himself for entering a job market that was still recovering from COVID-19. “My goal has always been to have a job lined up upon graduation,” he said. “That goal fell into jeopardy, so I decided to buy myself some time.”

Multiple students acknowledged the expected increase in midyear graduates. “COVID changed the game on this,” Janey Litvin ’21.5 said, emphasizing that she was one of the few midyear graduates she knew of who had not taken time off because of the pandemic.

Litvin took a leave of absence in spring 2020 to practice studio art and take non-University affiliated Spanish classes in Madrid, though she was forced to return home and take classes online when the pandemic hit. She had previously spent a semester at Trinity College in Dublin through the Consortium for Advanced Studies Abroad, a program that was sponsored by Brown and thus did not require a formal leave.

“Brown in general fosters a community where people feel very comfortable not graduating on a typical four year cycle,” Litvin said. “That’s a really awesome thing, because it affords people the opportunity to do really cool things that maybe they wouldn’t feel comfortable doing upon graduation.”

Peters reiterated the University’s commitment to allowing students to pursue a variety of different paths. “The College doesn’t discourage the diverse and exploratory journeys students take to complete their degree requirements,” she said, adding that the University seeks to celebrate these journeys with “an intimate celebration with family, friends, faculty and staff.”

The celebration will be held Saturday, Dec. 11 at 4 p.m. in the Salomon Center for Teaching, according to the University’s website. Despite the University not offering a reception following the event, Peters said that “the midyear team has a couple of surprises that we hope will further brighten the joyous day.”



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