Capping an academic year unlike any other due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Western University of Health Sciences graduates picked up their diplomas via drive-thru May 15 and May 18, 2020 after celebrating virtual Commencement and oath ceremonies.

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WesternU’s Office of the Registrar and University Student Affairs distributed 98 diplomas to graduates of the colleges of optometry, veterinary medicine and pharmacy in a system designed to minimize contact and ensure safety Friday, May 15. College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific and College of Podiatric Medicine graduates picked up their diplomas on Monday, May 18. Diplomas will be mailed to graduates unable to pick them up in person.

College of Veterinary Medicine graduate Avia Ben-Simon, DVM ’20, said she enjoyed picking up her diploma and seeing other people during this time of self-isolation. She also enjoyed her virtual Oath Ceremony.

“I felt like I was with my classmates on Zoom,” Ben-Simon said. “It was nice to send links to family and friends who wouldn’t have been there in person. I’m very sad, but I’m trying to see the silver lining and be thankful that we still had a ceremony and I still felt like I was with my family and friends and classmates.”


CVM graduate Teresa Gifford, DVM ’20, said when she had difficult moments during rotations she would think about walking across the Commencement stage. That did not come to pass, but she learned to accept it and enjoy the interactions they had during the ceremony on Zoom.

“I’ll probably miss the professors and my classmates the most, just having that community,” Gifford said. “It’s one adventure I’ve worked toward the last 10 years of my life that’s just coming to an end. The faculty and the community at WesternU has really meant a lot.”

College of Pharmacy graduate Alison Agustin, PharmD ’20, said she appreciated being able to pick up her diploma instead of waiting for it in the mail.

“It was nice to actually get it in person,” she said. “It was kind of like we were walking on stage, but we’re just driving through and getting the diploma.”

She realizes the drive-thru diploma pickup and online ceremonies are for everyone’s safety, so she has learned to go with the flow.

“It’s bittersweet but it’s for a reason, so I think the hardest part is just not being able to see my friends, especially because we haven’t seen each other in a long time because we went off on rotations,” Agustin said. “But I understand and I know something good will come out of it. Hopefully we’ll get to celebrate soon in the future when it’s safe to do so.”

Seeing everyone virtually at the College of Pharmacy’s oath ceremony was a relief, she said.

“Everyone is still happy and healthy,” she said. “I’m just waiting for the day where I get to see my friends and I get to hug them.”