The spring weather gave the Class of 2022, their families and their friends a warm welcome to Camp Randall for the University of Wisconsin-Madison spring commencement on Saturday, May 14.
“The energy of this space, this city and this community is magnificent,” Senior Class President Pranav Srivastava said as the ceremony began. “Whether it’s taking a walk up State Street on a sunny, blue-sky Saturday, or catching a sunset at the Terrace with a Spotted Cow, this place is like a little slice of heaven. We are the products of our environments and Madison has had an undeniable imprint on all of our lives.”
An estimated 42,000 people — including graduates — were present at Camp Randall on Saturday. Construction on the South End Zone did not impact capacity, according to the university, though some graduates of the College of Letters and Science (L&S) expressed disappointment that they were seated in the stands instead of on the field.
“I think it was kind of a bummer because the construction was going on, but I got there early enough to get a good seat and it was kind of fun to be in the stands for one of the last times and also see all of the set up from above,” said Megan Goodman, who graduated from L&S with degrees in economics and political science.
Chancellor Rebecca Blank shouted out the L&S graduates in the stands, encouraging them to “take advantage of one last chance to ‘Jump Around’ in the student section. No other class has gotten to do that.”
The graduation ceremonies of 2022 looked different than those held in the previous two years. In 2020, spring commencement was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, though an in-person celebration was held for the graduates in the fall of 2021. In the spring of 2021, students were spaced out and guests were not allowed into the stadium.
“This was supposed to be the best time of our lives, and it was. But it wasn’t what we signed up for and I share in that frustration,” Srivastava said. “Although we lost out on a lot, what we gained was a super-charged experience rooted in extreme learning beyond the classroom, far more valuable than any textbook could ever provide."
Goodman said that “because [COVID-19] ate up some of our years, everything went by so fast.”
“It is just a surreal moment to realize that you are at the end,” Goodman said. “I just appreciate all the times I had on campus and am thankful to have graduated from such a world-renowned institution and can join an amazing alumni network.”
Saturday’s ceremony featured U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who spoke on her experience at UW-Madison and current international affairs, including the war in Ukraine. Thomas-Greenfield urged graduates to step outside of their comfort zones.
“What I’ve found over the years, what I learned here in Wisconsin, in Liberia and in every other phase of my life, is that adversity, discomfort, hardship make you braver, smarter and stronger,” Thomas-Greenfield said.
Blank, who will leave UW-Madison at the end of May, gave her final speech as chancellor to the graduating class.
“In my nine years of leading this great university, some of my most memorable moments have been with our students. You have inspired and you’ve occasionally challenged me with your passion, your enthusiasm and your curiosity,” Blank said. “And I admit you’ve given me a good laugh with some of your ‘Becky Blank’ memes.”
Saturday also marked the graduation of the first full class of Bucky’s Tuition Promise recipients. About 600 students graduated through the program, which provides free tuition to in-state residents whose annual household adjusted gross income is $60,000 or less.
Additionally, the 2022 spring commencement was the first time the flag of the Ho-Chunk Nation flew alongside the U.S. and Wisconsin state flags on the stage. The Ho-Chunk Nation’s flag flew over Bascom Hall for the first time in November 2021.
Saturday’s celebration at Camp Randall included the Bachelor’s, Master’s and Law Degree candidate ceremonies. Doctoral, MFA and Medical Professional Degree candidate ceremonies were held at the Kohl Center on May 13.
state news writer