JMU News

Graduation is a bittersweet time, soon-to-be alums say

by Eric Gorton

201211 December Commencement preview

Having to finish her undergraduate career during a pandemic is leaving Elizabeth Owens feeling a little different about graduation than she might have otherwise. 

“It is not as hard to have to leave the virtual learning environment,” she said, “but it is bittersweet. JMU is my favorite place in the world, and I have so enjoyed learning from such amazing faculty members.” 

Sarah Welsch also called it a bittersweet time, especially since she will miss the faculty who have mentored her the past four years. “I know the friendships I have built will come with me post-graduation, but getting to attend classes on fascinating topics with experts in the field will be something I miss greatly,” she said. 

Owens, a health sciences major who is also in the pre-physical therapy program, and Welsch, who is double majoring in political science and Spanish, are among 830 undergraduates who will receive bachelor’s degrees virtually on Saturday, Dec. 19. Another 143 students will receive graduate degrees, with 131 master’s degree candidates and 12 doctoral candidates. 

The top three undergraduate majors during the fall semester were nursing, health sciences and hospitality management. The top graduate programs were for master’s degrees in physician assistant studies, occupational therapy and education. 

Both Owens and Welsch said their higher education careers may continue in the not-to-distant future. Owens hopes to begin a doctor of physical therapy program in summer 2021 while Welsch is looking for internships while contemplating graduate school. 

The ceremonies will be "live" through the JMU YouTube and Facebook platforms and can be accessed from

The main ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. and will include musical performances, remarks by President Jonathan Alger, Provost Heather Coltman and the Alumni Association speaker. 

A pre-ceremony show starting at 9:15 a.m. will feature greetings to the graduates, a senior class video, highlights of events, campus life and athletics accomplishments during the past four years. 


Media contact: Eric Gorton,; 540-908-1760. 


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Published: Friday, December 11, 2020

Last Updated: Friday, April 2, 2021

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