Expressive, gleeful eyes and socially distanced smiles reflected across campus at the revamped outdoor curbside commencement at Texas A&M University-San Antonio.
Graduates from spring, summer and fall 2020 had the option of participating in the on-campus event spanning over three days from Dec. 13-15.
They included graduates Guljemal Annamuhammedova and Emma Guadalupe Lopez-Rangel.
Accompanied by her family, first-generation graduate Emma Guadalupe Lopez-Rangel received a bachelor’s degree in biology. She takes pride in her degree as it has great significance to her. Lopez is the first woman in her family’s history to graduate from college, she said.
“I’m the first woman to have (a degree) on both sides of my family,” Lopez said.
Her mother, Juanita Rangel, said she is proud of her daughter’s dedication and accomplishments.
“I’m so proud of her,” Rangel said. “She constantly works and she made it. … She studied too much for this.”
Lopez plans to attend graduate school in pursuit of a master’s in physician assistant studies. She intends to apply to several universities including Oklahoma State University, she said.
Collectively, there were 365 A&M-San Antonio graduates: 150 on Sunday, 130 on Monday and 85 on Tuesday, according to Abigail Montanez, manager of event services from the Office of the President.
Graduates were allowed to bring up to five guests. Each person was required to get a wellness check upon arrival. To adhere to social distancing protocols, an event volunteer guided groups at designated times through a path leading to the stage.
Guests were asked to stand in front of the stage as their graduate walked across and had their name called by Dr. Mike O’Brien, provost and vice president of academic affairs.
“While it’s not the same as getting your degree conferred or sitting with your classmates, it’s better than a drive-up,” President Cynthia Teniente-Matson said on Dec. 15. “We really wanted to make a personal experience for the family pod to be able to engage in.”
The final stop for graduates and their loved ones was in front of the Central Academic Building where there were activity booths including a selfie station, flipbook station and a virtual caricature station. One group at a time was allowed per station.
Additionally, the university had five designated areas for photo opportunities. The areas consisted of the fountain in the west lawn, Tower of Esperanza, Central Academic Building, the Zarzamora university entrance and the Rec Sports Game Room for flash photography, according to the university curbside commencement page.
Turkmenistan native Annamuhammedova graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. She transferred to A&M-San Antonio spring 2019 from Lone Star College in Houston. She was accompanied by her friends because her family lives abroad, Annamuhammedova said.
“I came from Central Asia just to study to continue my higher education. This was my goal, first of all, coming to the United States and getting my degree,” Annamuhammedova said. “Second of all, I did it for my family – my parents. … It means a lot to me.”
Annamuhammedova’s next step is to take her certified public accountant exam, she said.
Although there are no official plans for spring 2021 commencement, Matson said she expects graduation to be similar to this event.