Emily Ambery | Staff Writer
As commencement events begin and Duquesne prepares for safe and socially distant ceremonies to celebrate this year’s graduates, Duquesne seniors have been preparing throughout the COVID-19 school year for their plans after graduation.
Duquesne is planning a two-part approach to commencement. The events will include a virtual commencement ceremony for all graduates, featuring student speakers, remarks from the deans and slides that recognize students and their accomplishments. It will also hold a variety of smaller, in-person, individual degree recognition ceremonies and observances.
While COVID-19 has affected graduation proceedings, it has also affected the process of looking for jobs, graduate school and other post-grad endeavors this year. The uncertainty of the pandemic and vaccination rates has made this process especially unique for this year’s seniors.
“I was ready to jump into the ‘real world’ and look for job openings abroad, but COVID has made that dream a little hard to complete,” said senior Spanish major Mady Simmers. “I was not expecting to complete my last year of undergrad the way that I have and was expecting to have a plan all figured out, but because of COVID, there have been many bumps in the road.”
With the loss of many jobs at the beginning of the pandemic and the transition to remote positions, the job search and interview process for this year’s graduates has looked different.
“Looking for a job has been very stressful. Finding a job in the middle of a pandemic is not an easy task,” Simmers said. “It is a really interesting dynamic to wear pajama pants and a dressy top and jacket while interviewing for a job.”
Along with the changing dynamics of the job search, seniors planning on pursuing a graduate degree have faced obstacles as well.
“Getting into grad school was already going to be hard for me, and finding a job has just been harder than expected — way harder,” said senior biology and psychology major Lauren Cocozza. “There’s just a larger pool of competitive applicants to look at now, and there are not a lot of jobs available.”
For many, COVID-19 may not have changed plans, but it has made them harder to accomplish.
“Fortunately, COVID didn’t change my plans too much,” said senior biomedical engineering major Tori Kocsis. “I knew I wanted to apply for the Master’s in Biomedical Engineering program at Duquesne, which I got accepted into this past month.”
For Kocsis, the pandemic has helped her realize what she wants to do with her degree and obtaining her master’s.
“The one thing that this pandemic helped me realize is that I want to apply for M.D./Ph.D. programs during the 2022 application cycle,” Kocsis said. “My passion for research as well as my love for learning science and medicine has led me to wanting to pursue this dual degree.”
For senior nursing major Saige McLusky, COVID-19 has not influenced her post-graduation decision, but has solidified her plans to stay in Pittsburgh and start traveling when it is safe.
“Ever since I started school, I planned on staying in Pittsburgh for a year or two for experience locally until I was ready to start travelling,” McLusky said. “My decision to stay definitely is the safest option for me regarding COVID-19 and the smartest option for me regarding my career as a new nurse.”
Seniors are hopeful that with the end of the pandemic in sight, travelling outside of Duquesne and hometowns will provide new opportunities.
“I’m excited to see where exactly life takes me,” Cocozza said. “We’ve been refined to staying in the same place, like staying in Pittsburgh or staying at home, and we can’t really travel, so now I’m excited to just see where I end up.”
While there is a lot of uncertainty about the future of the pandemic, Duquesne graduates are hopeful and looking forward to the future.
“Even though COVID was a gigantic bump in the road, I am excited to use the skills and the work ethic that I have gained during my upcoming job opportunities,” Simmers said. “I think that if I learned anything through COVID, it is that we all rely on one another.”