South Texas College of Law Houston Offers COVID-Safe, In-Person Graduation Amidst Challenging Coronavirus Pandemic
For the second time since the outset of the coronavirus pandemic one year ago, South Texas College of Law Houston has set the bar, offering unique, in-person graduation ceremonies amidst a global pandemic.
On Saturday, Feb. 27, Houston’s oldest law school hosted three separate, in-person hooding ceremonies for December 2020 graduates, meeting both the students’ wishes for an on-campus celebration and the school’s stringent COVID-19 precautions. The three smaller events accommodated up to 20 students per ceremony, plus eight of their chosen guests, in STCL Houston’s Joe Green Auditorium downtown.
“Once again, South Texas College of Law Houston was able to offer an in-person, socially distanced graduation ceremony, replicating the very successful approach we used in October for our May 2020 graduates,” said STCL Houston President and Dean Michael F. Barry. “Programs like this take dedication, focused effort, and precision timing — but the work is rewarding, and the payoff is great. Our law school is a special community — and our commitment to our students shines through during challenging times.”
In October, the law school hosted 12 separate commencement ceremonies for the classes of fall 2019, spring 2020, and summer 2020 to ensure the students had the opportunity to walk across the stage and collect their hard-earned diplomas in front of family and friends. Because STCL Houston was among the first schools in the state and country to accommodate students with this unique solution, the law school garnered widespread national media coverage last fall and inspired other institutions of higher education to follow suit.
As with commencement in years past, STCL Houston’s most recent graduates donned full graduation regalia, were treated to a commencement speech by Dean Barry, and received individual recognition on the commencement stage. Each ceremony included attendance by a variety of faculty members and board members, despite limited space in the auditorium.
The school’s strict COVID-19 protocols remained in place for the three events. Similarly, all individuals on campus were required to wear a facial covering at all times and maintain social distancing of at least six feet. To limit exposure between groups, graduates and their guests gathered outside the San Jacinto Street entrance for campus check-in, entered the building as an entire party together, and left immediately after taking professional photographs in the school’s atrium following the commencement ceremonies.
“At our hooding ceremony, Dean Barry reminded us to be grateful and appreciative,” said Brooke Cluse, a December 2020 graduate of the law school who participated in one of last weekend’s special hooding ceremonies. “I would not have been able to run my insurance agency and complete the part-time program at South Texas College of Law Houston in three and a half years without the prayers and support of my family and friends. I am prepared and ready to engage in the practice of law because of the tutelage and mentorship of the awesome faculty and staff at STCL Houston.
“Pursuing my law degree required great sacrifice, but it was so worth it,” she said. “I am truly blessed and believe that to whom much is given, much is required. As charged by Dean Barry, I am eager ‘to put my gratitude into action.'”