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Pandemic pomp and circumstance: FIU gives graduating seniors socially distanced campus send-off


The effort delighted students.

“I really appreciate what the school has done. It’s been a crazy year,” said Merlin Perez, who is soon to earn a bachelor’s degree in biology from the College of Arts, Sciences and Education. “I’m very happy that the school did this for us, and it kind of makes me feel good about our graduation.”

Emilio Santisteban will receive a bachelor’s in travel management from the Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. He especially applauded Rosenberg’s presence at the event and noted the encouraging messages the university president has sent to students in recent months. “It was important to see him because he’s the face of this campus,” Santisteban said of one reason for attending. “He has our backs, so I wanted to be here and see him.”

Ana Garcia majored in chemistry and gladly accepted the chance for a bit of celebration with her mom, especially as plans for an after-graduation trip have been cancelled. She has worked in the forensic research lab of Provost and Executive Vice President Kenneth G. Furton and, like many who are graduating, has her eye on an advanced degree.

“I just keep thinking I want to continue my education, I want to stay at FIU,” Garcia said. “So, I’ll have my [in-person graduation] opportunity again.”

Josef Ghitis will shortly claim a doctorate of nursing practice in anesthesia from the Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences and has a job waiting for him at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. His parents joined him on campus, and dad Jorge Ghitis put the experience of make-due commencement pageantry and virtual graduation into perspective.

“We’re living through hard times, and this is nothing hard compared to what could be,” he said of the awful circumstances that so many throughout the country are facing.

“So we’re grateful that we can breathe, that we can walk, that we can accompany him and that [all the graduates] did the journey they did and are ready for the next step in their lives. So it’s all good. It’s all positive. We are grateful that we can do this at this moment.”