Adapt. That has been the theme of the 2020-21 academic year both across the globe and here at Oregon Coast Community College. The 2021 OCCC Commencement ceremony was no different. What was planned as primarily an outdoor “Car-mencement” to encourage social distancing and safety had to be moved indoors due to inclement weather. Fortunately, OCCC staff were able to facilitate a hybrid commencement ceremony, using a mix of pre-recorded videos and live events. The event accommodated one in-person guest per graduate in the Central Campus building, with plenty more livestreaming over Zoom and Facebook.  

To begin, College President Dr. Birgitte Ryslinge proudly announced that this is a historic year. “The Class of 2021 is particularly important to the leaders and founders of this college in that it marks the first-ever graduating class whose diplomas read ‘Oregon Coast Community College’.” She further explained that while the college has been in operation since 1987, the seven-year independent accreditation process has come to fruition. In total, 41 associate degrees, 59 certificates, and 9 GED high school diploma equivalents were awarded. 

Oregon State Sen. Dick Anderson spoke via prerecorded video to the graduates and viewers. Sen. Anderson serves District 5, which includes Lincoln and the surrounding counties. During his first commencement speech as a senator, Anderson encouraged students to be active members in their respective communities, “I hope you will support your family, work hard at furthering your education or your work, and remember to take the time to give back and make whatever community you live in the best place it can be.”  

The 7th annual “Friend of the College” award was presented to Bud Shoemake of the Port of Toledo. Dr. Ryslinge said of Mr. Shoemake, “It was Bud’s vision, leadership and boundless energy that allowed us to take the concrete steps to make the Welding Technology Program a reality.” Shoemake has since retired and passed the leadership of the program to current port manager Lorna Davis. In his acceptance speech, Bud thanked the college and acknowledged that several students have become employees of the Port.  

The student speaker, Lupita Martinez-Galicia, gave a brief speech focused on the identity of the graduates, highlighting the drive and work ethic that OCCC students share to reach their goals: “People have so much strength within themselves that all they must do is believe in themselves to make anything possible.” 

Additionally, math faculty member Jennifer Fleming was presented with the Faculty of the Year award. Recipients of this award also receive a $500 stipend, which she plans to use to create a math award.  

Finally, Dr. Franki Trujillo-Dalbey read the names of each of the graduates who participated in the in-person walk, receiving diploma covers from Chair of the college’s Board, Nancy Osterman and Dr. Ryslinge. Students then proceeded along a line of congratulatory faculty and posed for a photo. After the ceremony, graduates continued to pose for photos and celebrate with friends and family in front of the Central Campus building.