UW-Madison Fall 2020 graduates react to virtual winter commencement

MADISON, Wis. — Another class of UW-Madison students will graduate virtually on Sunday, with commencement ceremonies being held online for the second time since the pandemic began.

Yet the virtual format isn’t the only unique thing about this round of graduation. Sven Kleinhans will make history by being the first student athlete to be the commencement speaker.

“Being from Germany, it’s usually not that big of a deal so looking at it from a more cultural perspective, where I come from, where I grew up, it is an honor but it’s not that big of a deal but people here have been telling me that I can be pretty proud,” said Kleinhans.

Kleinhans had plans of graduating with a degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis back in the summer of 2020, but decided to stay to play soccer during the fall semester. This opportunity was taken away when the season was postponed back in August.

Although Wyatt Weigel isn’t a student athlete, he said he also had to balance two very different worlds during his time at UW.

“I made the decision to come to UW-Madison almost five years ago and I made the decision to join the military about five years ago too,” said Weigel.

Weigel explained that he trained for the Wisconsin Army National Guard just two months after finishing his senior year of high school. Now he’s graduating with degrees in Community and Nonprofit Leadership and Communications, with an emphasis in film, radio and television.

Although he said the excitement surrounding graduation is not the same this year due to the pandemic, he doesn’t really see that as a bad thing: “I think that it just reminds me that the world needs people that are ready to take on serious issues so, me having a weekend of excitement might have pushed me to reminisce a little more than I should,” said Weigel.

Both Weigel and Klienhans shared similar sentiments about their upcoming graduation, calling the experience “bittersweet,” and saying it feels like “less of an accomplishment,” because of it being online.

Yet they still had some positive advice for students who have some virtual college experiences ahead: “I know it doesn’t always feel like it, but all of us are very to be in a position where we can even go to college,” said Weigel.

The ceremony will be streamed on YouTube at 11 a.m. on December 13. The link can be found here.