Graduation celebrations are about to begin for students on the Washington State University Pullman campus.

Close to 400 students are registered to participate in a drive-through graduation celebration on Saturday, May 1, beginning at 10 a.m., and over 100 students have signed up to participate in the virtual Multicultural Student Services (MSS) graduation celebration next week.

The drive-through event is being planned by the Division of Student Affairs in partnership with Parking and Transportation Services, University Marketing and Communication, the university events team, and a number of others.

Kim Holapa, associate vice president for external engagement and strategic initiatives in Student Affairs, said when the university made the decision to hold spring commencement virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions, WSU leaders wanted to do something extra to show graduates how proud WSU is of their accomplishments.

“This group of students persevered through things nobody could have imagined, and they may have felt a little disconnected from people this past year,” Holapa said. “We want them to know we see them, and they are part of the Cougar family.”

Graduates will meet in the parking lot next to the tennis courts on North Fairway Road. There, each graduate in the car will receive a gift bag containing some commemorative items. If students previously registered for the virtual commencement on May 8, they can also pick up their Grad Packs, which include a diploma cover and a commencement program.

The drive-through route will take cars from the tennis courts to Stadium Way and up to Terrell Mall. As students drive by the Compton Union Building, the name of each graduate will be announced by Steve Shannon from ZFun 106 (KZFN). Cars will make their way past Bryan Hall and the Chinook Student Center, where the route comes to an end.

Along the way, graduates will be cheered by volunteer faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community members. Holapa said all local community members are invited to help congratulate the graduates. Volunteers need to register before the event to receive a congratulatory sign or Cougar pom-pom to wave and instructions on where to safely stand along the route.

Holapa said the drive-through celebration is intended only for graduates living in the Palouse region and everyone, including the volunteers, must wear masks and follow health protocols. Students will not be allowed to stop along the route or exit their cars to take pictures.

‘A big deal for our students’

MSS will host its annual graduation celebration virtually on May 7, beginning at 5:30 p.m. The WSU community is invited to view a livestream of the event.

WSU President Kirk Schulz will provide opening remarks. The program includes student speakers from the African American Student Center, Asian and Pacific Islander Student Center, Chicanx Latinx Student Center, and Native American Student Center. The keynote address will be given by WSU alumnus Christiaan Brown, executive vice president and corporate practice lead at Weber Shandwick, a global public relations firm. WSU Regent Lisa Schauer will provide closing comments.

“Our graduation celebrations have always been a really big deal for our students,” said Sylvia Bullock, MSS student advisor and event organizer. “Building a sense of community for students is ingrained in everything we do, and even though this celebration will be virtual, we want them to feel how proud we are of them.”

Despite the celebration’s virtual format, Bullock said a key tradition will continue: Each graduate attending the celebration will receive a special stole representing their ethnic heritage and a certificate of congratulations.