National Park College announced plans Wednesday to hold its spring commencement in-person at Bank OZK Arena in May and to fully open its campus for the fall semester.
The commencement ceremonies will be in-person on Saturday, May 15, beginning at 7:30 p.m. at the arena, and a livestream will be available for those that can attend in person, the college said in a news release.
Graduates from the class of 2020 and 2021 for both NPC and Adult Basic Education will be included in the event with approximately 250-300 students graduating, the release said.
"We are expecting between 225 and 250 2020/21 NPC graduates and 30-50 2020/21 Adult Ed graduates," Yolanda Cox, director of National Park University Center, said in the release, which was made following the NPC board's monthly meeting Wednesday.
"Students are excited about the commencement ceremony, and we are looking forward to celebrating our 2020 and 2021 graduates," she said.
"Our students are excited to participate in commencement. We are eager to gather and celebrate the accomplishments of our students, especially given all they endured this past year," NPC President John Hogan said.
During the board meeting, Cox also reported the college's plans to fully open the campus for the fall semester, with options still being available for those who want to attend remotely or online. Student services will also continue to be available virtually or in person.
The Class of 2020 will have an opportunity to participate in the ceremony as well. The college hosted a drive-through graduation event last year.
"We are thrilled to be able to provide a more traditional commencement experience this year," Hogan said.
He said it is encouraging to see the light at the end of the tunnel finally, but stressed the college will continue to follow the recommended guidelines to keep the campus community safe.
NPC will follow the Bank OZK arena guidelines for COVID-19. At this time, each graduate is limited to eight guests. The restriction may change depending on changes to the arena's guidelines.
The college surveyed its graduates to get their feedback and the decision is a result of that.
"We know this is important to our students because they told us they wanted an in-person commencement ceremony," Hogan said.
"They want to be able to celebrate with their families and with the faculty and staff that supported them through their journey at NPC," he said.
Hogan said recognizing the students' achievements is a solemn and important rite of passage and commencement is a significant acknowledgment of the students' success.
"We can't take that lightly," he said.