UAA holds first in-person commencement in nearly two years

Embracing her Yup’ik heritage with a beaded mortarboard, Andrea Allen stood outside the Alaska Airlines Center on Sunday as family members took turns having their picture taken with her documenting the special occasion.

“A majority of my family flew in from Bethel,” said Allen, who earned a a bachelor of science degree in natural sciences with a minor in psychology. “I’m glad they are here to experience it with me. It meant a lot because I’m the first one to graduate from college in my family.”

Nearly 700 certificate, undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Alaska Anchorage Fall Class of 2021 were honored in two separate ceremonies, one in the morning and another in the evening to accommodate for social distancing. The university expected roughly 250 students to participate in the in-person ceremonies.

“We are proud to celebrate these persistent, resilient students who leaned into their education during such trying times,” said UAA Chancellor Sean Parnell. “Much like our graduates last spring, the fall Class of 2021 has navigated unprecedented obstacles to reach their goal of graduation. I am very proud of these graduates for what they have overcome and accomplished...”

Allen’s mother said, “I am really proud of her. She completed everything no matter what challenges she faced.”

Bill Roth

Bill Roth is a staff photojournalist at the Anchorage Daily News.