In a year unlike any other, graduates found themselves finishing their time at WSU in ways they never could have imagined. Instead of gathering with friends and family to walk across the stage at The Fox Theater on May 7, graduates logged onto the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences virtual celebration page to find their name and watch videos of speeches normally delivered in person. The following Saturday, graduates tuned in to a live YouTube ceremony, held by the Washington State University, followed by the WSU Health Sciences celebration.

“Definitely that bittersweet because we don’t get to be here together in person to really experience this ritual and rite of passage that we have been looking forward to for a long time,” said CPPS graduate Brandy Seignemartin in an interview with local television station KXLY.

The WSU system-wide ceremony had a few surprise guests. Governor Jay Inslee, rapper and Washington native Macklemore, Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and Senator Maria Cantwell were just a few of the local celebrities who showed up to congratulate WSU students and lift their spirits.

With the COVID-19 pandemic impacting the world, students at the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences quickly adapted to distance learning following Washington Governor Inslee’s mandatory Stay Home, Stay Healthy order. In the last few weeks of their degrees, classes were delivered remotely, rotations had to be improvised, and all events, including commencement, cancelled in order to mitigate the spread of the virus.

To celebrate commencement, the College had to get creative in recognizing the accomplishments of seven PhD of pharmaceutical sciences, one master of pharmaceutical sciences and 160 Doctor of Pharmacy graduates. In video messages to students, guest speakers and alumni showed up to congratulate graduates on this milestone in their lives. Keynote speaker, Rear Admiral Scott Giberson said in his video address, “Only this year’s class can say they graduated and stepped forward to lead at one of the most unique times in our nation’s history… You are a public health professional that understands prevention and wellness and knows how to navigate the health system. Essentially you are the gatekeeper of health.”

Interim Dean Linda Garrelts MacLean offered words of encouragement: “Remember—you are the one who’s in charge of your future.”

And unlike in previous years, when leaders of the college guided students through their final passage, the Oath of a Pharmacist, students had to recite their oath in the privacy of their own homes. Despite the unimaginable circumstances, students still expressed excitement in this landmark achievement in their lives.

“It feels amazing. It’s kind of surreal, honestly,” said Seignemartin in her interview with KXLY.