Lamar University looks back at 20 years of commencement

Commencement 2022


The Montagne Center is bristling with excitement. In the air-conditioned space, friends huddle together; arms are outstretched with phones, trying to get the best angles for photos. The tiniest strand of hair is in place with hairspray. Family and friends hold flowers close, ready to bestow the bouquets to their loved ones, who are taking the next step in their lives. Hats are being readjusted. Nerves and exhilaration are buzzing. You can feel it in the air — the pomp and circumstance. It’s commencement in the spring of 2022. 2022 Commencement

Over two decades, LU commencement has been transformed; however, the goal has always remained the same: to celebrate the education and preparation of students for their future. In 20 years and beyond, the university has persevered despite the calamities and catastrophes that tested our community’s resolve. Last week, we celebrated graduates who, in the face of adversity, succeeded in obtaining their degrees.

In light of the recent commencement ceremonies, we’d like to reflect upon three tenets — growth, resiliency and opportunity — we have come to celebrate each graduation, whether last week or two decades ago.


In the past 20 years, Lamar University has seen tremendous growth, particularly with online students, according to LU Registrar David Short.

“We have a new generation of students whose connection to LU is primarily digital — whose first visit to campus is likely at commencement,” Short said. “These students may not know or understand the history and traditions of campus like previous groups, but are still active, engaged and full of school spirit.”

Commencement 2022In the last five years, Lamar University has seen exponential growth overall, with an increase in its student population by 9%. LU has also experienced a surge in the number of degrees awarded over the past five years, with bachelor’s at an increase of 34.7% (5,535) and master’s at an increase of 55% (3,311).

This growth was particularly evident in May of 2009 — the last time all colleges came together for one spring commencement ceremony.

“Because of our continued enrollment growth and steady increases in graduation rates, LU decided about 10 years ago to hold separate commencement ceremonies to accommodate the growing number of graduates. Over the past year, our graduating students, who can now call themselves alum, could have let hurricanes, ice storms, a plant explosion and a pandemic throw them off track, but they persevered. The result is nothing short of amazing, with the most degrees and certificates awarded that LU has ever seen,” said Katrina Brent, associate vice president of Enrollment Management and Marketing. “Lamar University and our students have remained resilient over the past two decades and we pride ourselves in striving through adversity.” 


Throughout the years, we have all come to remember their notorious names — Rita, Ike, Harvey, Imelda, Laura, Delta and others. As a university located on the Texas Gulf Coast, the community has weathered many storms, including a pandemic that swept the nation beginning in the spring of 2020. In the face of these calamities, LU has been committed to its students, who have shown unprecedented strength.

“Once, a hurricane meant a campus closure and cessation of classes for days, weeks, even months. Now, students are able to resume their education online after the impact of a storm or other life-altering event. That they can do so while still picking up the pieces from a disaster — and be successful — speaks volumes to the tenacity and resiliency of our graduates,” said Short. “Despite all of these interruptions to their normal lives, they have managed to stay the course. It's a testament to their tenacity, drive and dedication to achieve their goal of attaining a degree at Lamar University. It speaks to their adaptability and willingness to embrace new ways of seeking education.” Commencement 2022

When COVID-19 ravaged the world, 2020 saw the addition of a virtual commencement, which became a necessity with the pandemic. The virtual commencement ceremonies were then added as a feature after the height of the pandemic.

Despite this global crisis, all students were afforded the opportunity to graduate on time without missing coursework or delaying the receipt of their degree.

“We offered all of those graduates (who were affected by the pandemic) the opportunity to participate in later ceremonies,” Short said. “LU understands that many of our graduates are the first in their families to ever receive a college degree and this is an important day not only for the student, but for the entire family. We know we've been entrusted to deliver a celebration worthy of a first-generation graduate and it is a responsibility we take very seriously.”

The virtual commencement ceremonies have become a staple that will last for future Cardinals who will celebrate online.

“We’ve tried to meet the students where they are at. We invite and welcome our online students to visit campus for commencement. We offer a virtual option for those who cannot attend in person,” the registrar said. “We've revised the commencement program to be more of a student-focused celebration. Within 15 minutes of the start of our ceremonies, students are already crossing the stage and hearing their names.”

Despite it all — the torrential tempests, unprecedented COVID-19 lockdown, never-ending power outages, detrimental plant explosions, extraordinary snowstorms — Lamar University has stood strong, has been made better in the face of hardship and has presented graduates with endless possibilities to flourish in today’s job market.


Adversity builds strength of character — a trait that today’s employers hold in high demand. Students have further developed their fortitude in becoming adaptable and innovative, while also positively impacting their communities and beyond, according to Jocelyn Robbins, director of the Center for Career and Professional Development.

“Employers see that ‘can do’ spirit, motivation and recognize that these students, as potential employees, will take initiative and be future leaders in their organizations,” Robbins said. “Soft skills related to teamwork, communication and leadership have been honed for many students through those trying times, which are relevant for any job seeker, regardless of position or industry.”

Robbins noted that the changes seen in the job market over the last 10 years require adaptability. There are jobs that exist now or that will exist by the time a student graduates that didn't before they may have started their degree. Job functions require more fluidity in responsibilities as companies evolve and adapt their products and services for their customers.Commencement 2022
“Thankfully, Lamar University prepares students with strong foundations of knowledge related to their chosen fields and provides them with the opportunity to further explore their interests with research opportunities and connections to various industries,” she said, noting that the Center for Career & Professional Development assists students in exploring their career goals and aligning them with labor market expectations and outlooks. “Through the thousands of internships available for students, they have an opportunity to experience their desired industry before graduation.”

Lamar University President Jaime Taylor added, “Lamar University students have this nice balance between lifelong learning, which is incredibly important for students nowadays with how fast the world is changing, and they have a skillset where they can hit the ground running on day one, so employers really want our graduates.”

As we reflect back on the past two decades, Lamar University is proud of all of its graduates and alumni, knowing each and every one of them went on to do meaningful work. And while we don’t know what the next 20 years of commencement ceremonies will look like, we do hope to see every future Cardinal there — smiling with their degree, ready to take the next step into the oyster of their world.

“I’m proud to say that at LU, our business is not in granting degrees; it’s in creating human value. You are Lamar University,” President Taylor said to graduates at commencement. “So don’t be shy about communicating your value every day to employers and members of the community and those in leadership positions. Your value finds its fullest expression not in the diploma you carry, but in the way you will transform the world.”

Despite the pomp and circumstance, commencement ceremonies are about celebrating you, the graduates — how you’ve contributed to the growth of Lamar University, displayed your unrelenting resiliency and the opportunities you will embrace in the next step of your lives. When all is said and done, LU is about you. Your moment is here. Your moment is now.