Alger said that as soon as it's safe to do so, an in-person celebration will be held for those who graduated virtually.

The online ceremony for undergraduates was held Dec. 19 at 10 a.m., one day after the ceremony for graduates was held. Attendees accessed the virtual commencement link on JMU’s home page to watch their classmates, family members and friends move on from JMU and begin the rest of their journeys.

The event began with videos and photographs of the graduates as well as congratulatory messages from faculty and fellow alumni.

The ceremony itself began with the singing of the national anthem and a speech by President Alger, who said that he was proud of students for overcoming difficulties and advancing as successful students despite the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Alger also said he was amazed at how well students were able to find new ways to share and produce work given the current circumstances. 

“Students have graduated in the midst of wars, depressions, social unrest and even pandemics,” Alger said. “These occasions remind us that in the midst of constant change and turmoil in the world around us, education still holds the key to solving big, difficult problems in every sphere of human life,” Alger said.

Alger also said that as soon as it’s safe to do so, JMU will hold an in-person celebration event.

Following Alger’s speech, JMU Alumni Association President Dave Urso, gave a commencement speech welcoming students to the JMU alumni association. 

“The Madison network is thriving and now you’re a part of that movement,” Urso said. 

Jordan Graves, a senior finance major, graduated this December. Graves said he was hoping his graduation ceremony would look like those in years past. 

“I was hoping it’d be in person so family and friends could come out and watch me walk on the stage,” Graves said. 

Graves also said it’d be nice to have an in-person ceremony at some point and suggested that perhaps the December and spring graduates could walk together. 

“I would definitely come back for that if they made it an option,” Graves said. 

After graduation, Graves said he strives to start his own business and is interested in becoming an entrepreneur. 

“I don’t really want to work for someone else my whole entire life, so I’m very hopeful that I’ll be able to start a business and be successful in that way, but we’ll definitely see where life takes me,” Graves said. 

Maggie Pacia, senior English and history major, graduated on Dec. 19 as well. Pacia said that she was completely fine with an online ceremony because she thought it’d be risky to have an in-person event. 

As for an in-person event in the future, Pacia said she wouldn’t participate. 

“If some people want to do [an in-person ceremony],I would be doubtful as to the safety of it; I don’t really hope for one for myself,” Pacia said. 

Pacia said she hopes to find a job after graduation, although she’s not entirely sure what type of job she’d like to have. 

“I think that my dream job might be probably something to do with historic conservation or preservation, and ideally I’d be able to write about it,” Pacia said. 

Pacia said she’d love to help an organization or museum to educate others on their work through writing about it. 

Although the ceremony was different from years past, students were still able to be recognized for their hard work at JMU.

“You have finished strong in the face of many obstacles, and the university is a better place because of your commitment to our JMU community,” Alger said.

Contact Maggie Rickerby at For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.