With May right around the corner, the University of Memphis should have an excited buzz floating around. However, with a global pandemic raging, campus has become a silent ghost town and seniors' dreams of walking on stage in the FedExForum to collect their degrees might stay just that, dreams. In an attempt to help put an end to the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak, commonly referred to as the coronavirus, the UofM has not only moved to online classes, it has also postponed graduation until further notice.
Senior Gabrielle Byndas, a double major in criminology and psychology, is one of many seniors that were supposed to graduate this spring. She has made an effort to stay positive about graduation in her final semester, especially under the circumstances that her and others find themselves in.
“Not being able to walk honestly is kind of disappointing, not because it means that I did not accomplish anything, but because it downplays all the work I put into these past four years,” Byndas said. “I am trying to reiterate to myself that I still made it through, I am still putting in the work, and I am still graduating; however it is just under altered circumstances.”
Although some seniors are expressing a lot of pain, distress and dissatisfaction from this news, it also has a momentous effect on many family members who have scheduled their calendars far in advance in anticipation for the event. According to Byndas, this graduation was important to her family, especially her sister who often works but got the opportunity to take a vacation to see her walk across the stage in the FedExForum.
“She made my graduation date a priority and that meant a lot to me,” she said. “So with the news that she can not come to see it anymore, it makes me sad all over again. Graduation this time around is different for me. Especially compared to high school. This was four more years of even harder work. University graduation is more special to me because it is a bigger deal.”
However, in light of recent events, Byndas has come to understand and accept the importance of postponing the event. Along with many other criminal justice students, she has been affected personally by this outbreak with the news of Dr. Lenard Wells’ death from the virus being reported Monday. He was one of her favorite professors, as well as a mentor.
“I pictured so many things differently,” she said. “I thought I would have longer to talk to my professors face to face. That really hits me hard. I had planned on asking him, specifically, for career advice because I have[ job] interviews and such coming up. Not being able to talk to him about what he values really hurts and I already miss him. Nothing is what you will expect it to be, especially this semester. So take every opportunity as soon as it comes because you never know what’s going to happen within seven days.”