It was not the ending to her college career that University of Minnesota Rochester student Alynn Kruse envisioned for her class.
This Saturday, Kruse and three classmates will gather in front of their Rochester apartment building and watch commencement from a computer screen on a courtyard bench.
There will be no valedictory walk across the stage in front of family and friends. No pomp and circumstance. No final ceremonial sendoff as she had imagined.
"It's anti-climatic. I feel like I'm missing some closure," the 22-year-old Urbandale, Ill., native said. "It's going to be weird. But the last eight weeks have been weird."
Like many universities, UMR opted for a virtual ceremony when a physical gathering became impossible in these COVID-19 pandemic times. UMR's is set for 11 a.m. Saturday.
Commencement ceremonies are about milestones and transitions. But for many in this 125-member UMR class, the eighth to graduate from this health care-focused school, this will be a graduation with all the drama and panoply of logging into a Zoom video-conference.
Kruse recalls touring the university five years ago as a high school senior and being told how graduation at Mayo Civic Center would be the culmination of her college career at UMR.
"That's what we were working toward, and then we're going to celebrate in the courtyard," Kruse said. "But, you know, it's still our celebration. It's part of our story."
So it will be memorable, just not exactly what they planned.
Maha Siddiqui, a 21-year-old UMR student, said she will watch the commencement with her mom in the dining room of her Hastings, Minn., home. It will be a difficult way to end her four years at UMR. Her small class became tight-knit during their time together. They saw each other grow both intellectually and emotionally. Graduation was their final mark of success together.
"It's hard to be excited," Siddiqui said. "One of the most exciting parts is seeing your friends walk across the stage and seeing them for the final good-bye. I don't get to do that."
Siddiqui said the event won't lack all festivity. She was excited that her friend and fellow classmate, Samantha Kreps of Rochester, will be one of the student speakers. And there will be a celebratory meal prepared by her mom after commencement.
The other student speaker will be Tamika Falkner of Bay City, Wis. Shanna Altrichter, a sociology faculty member with UMR's Center for Learning Innovation, will be the faculty speaker.
For many of these students, post-graduation life will be clouded in uncertainty as well. Siddiqui has plans to attend pharmacy school at the University of Illinois in Chicago, but it's "very much up in the air" what will happen in the fall. Kruse intends to get her masters degree in genetic counseling and had a job lined up in the field until the pandemic upended those plans.
"I'm going to try to find some other ways to get some experience and then apply for the masters program," Kruse said.
Kruse said resilience will be key in negotiating the future, a characteristic UMR has prized and sought to instill in students. UMR students tend to be Type A personalities. They don't particular like uncertainty. She plans to lean heavily on what she learned at UMR.
"We've been taught to adapt. We've been taught that things aren't going to go as planned," Kruse said. "And in the medical community and the scientific world, you're not going to know what happens next as much as you try to plan it."