Graduation is an important milestone in students’ lives. It is a commemoration of the skills and knowledge they have acquired through their time at the University of Florida. Last year, 2020 graduation ceremonies were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, placing these celebrations on hold.

Spring of 2021 brought new life onto campus, with the first on-campus graduation ceremonies since December of 2019. Units within Business Affairs such as Facilities Services and the Stephen C. O’Connell Center (SOC) staff came together to ensure safe and memorable ceremonies were held.

This year, the Facilities team is collaborating with the SOC to host thirty-one ceremonies, according to Kyle Mainieri, Box Office and Marketing Manager at the SOC. This large number is due to make-up ceremonies for 2020 graduates, social distancing guidelines, and 2021 graduation events. The increase in ceremonies meant that collaborative efforts between the SOC staff and the Facilities team were essential for Spring graduations.

Danny Monroe, Building Services Superintendent for Faculties Services, played a significant role in managing the preparation of the ceremonies. Monroe explains, “To prepare for these ceremonies, my team had to set chairs on the arena floor for social distancing, each chair being exactly 6 feet each way utilizing distance sticks to perform this setup. Each chair had to be perfectly in line with other chairs’ front, back, and side, and if it was even 1/8 inch off, it was noticeable. We also placed the chairs on stage along with the podium used by the president, deans, and others.  Again, these had to be perfectly in line at 6-foot intervals.”

Facilities Services’ work does not stop at the chairs. The banners also had to be changed out for each ceremony, the Refuse Department picked up litter, and the Grounds Department delivered the decorative palms. Another considerable contribution was the consideration of Covid-19 protocols. The Facilities Department provided hand sanitizing stations and wipe stations to keep everyone safe. Monroe states, “After each day’s ceremonies, for 11 days, the entire area was sprayed with virus suppression disinfectant to help prevent the spread of the virus for attendees. There were five disinfecting units used to complete this work each night.”

These fine details were essential for these ceremonies to happen. As Mainierie explains, “Our operations team has done a fantastic job of collaborating with President Fuchs as well as the University itself to make sure that we leave no stone unturned.” The operation team reviewed every detail to ensure that the commencement ceremonies were as safe and comfortable for students, staff, and guests.

The Spring 2021 commencement ceremonies were the first to implement tickets. Mainieri helped to manage and facilitate ticketing for the event. He states, “It was a large point of emphasis by the University to try and make things as “touchless” as possible, and this included ticketing.” Tickets were digital and scannable, so students just had to have the barcode open on their phone for staff to scan upon entering.

In the end, the Facilities Services and the O’Connell Center staff hosted thirty-one graduation ceremonies safely and successfully.