Virtual Commencement and Lei Drive-Through Celebrates Accomplishments of Over 1,800 Islander Graduates

By Olivia Santos, Joshua Esparza | Published: August 15, 2020

Virtual Commencement and Lei Drive-Through Celebrates Accomplishments of Over 1,800 Islander Graduates

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Even in unprecedented times, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi prioritizes the importance of celebrating the hard work and accomplishments of Islander graduates. This week, the Island University honored graduates by hosting an Islander Lei Drive-Thru event to commemorate the time-honored tradition of wearing leis at commencement and welcomed soon-to-be graduates to the Islander alumni community.  

“This lei symbolizes all of my hard work throughout my time in college and is a celebration that I’m finally here – I did it,” said Hannah Roberson, Bachelor of Arts in Marketing graduate. “I definitely plan on wearing my lei during our virtual commencement. I’m excited to join the alumni community and this just brings a little bit of light to everything that’s happened this year.”

With nearly 200 graduates taking part in the drive-through, the Islander Alumni Association, staff, and volunteers gathered on Friday, Aug. 14, to bring not only a sense of normalcy to students but also sense of Islander pride. With congratulatory cheers and waves, students one-by-one received their authentic floral leis, which were flown directly from Thailand. Leis can be preserved and kept as a memento for years to come, reminding Islanders of their years of hard work and dedication.

“The Islander Lei tradition dates back to the early 2000’s,” Russell Wagner’98, Executive Director of Alumni Relations, said. “As alumni, we love every part of the tradition. As graduates drive through today, you can see their excited for commencement and we’re excited to share in their moment.”

In observation of social distancing guidelines and to keep Islanders and their families safe during the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Island University preserved and adapted commencement into a virtual event. The ceremonies, held Saturday, Aug. 15, included an interactive website featuring videos from the University President, University Provost, Deans, Alumni Association President, and A&M System Board of Regents. There was also a slide show which recognized Islander graduates and special feature videos and web stories honoring those recognized with the title of Outstanding Graduate – a title awarded by Dr. Clarenda Phillips, University Provost. Many of the slides were personalized with photos, quotes, and messages of gratitude.

“Having this dedication to the graduates means a lot – we’ve come such a long way,” said Priscilla Cantu, Master of Business Administration graduate. “I love A&M-Corpus Christi, I earned my bachelor’s and my master’s degree here. Whether it be through finances or volunteer time, I will always be here for TAMU-CC.”

More than 1,800 graduates took part in the online commencement celebration, which invited friends and family from near and far to tune in. University President and CEO Dr. Kelly M. Miller praised students for their achievements and offered inspiring words, rounding out the weekend’s unique celebrations.

“Today is a very important day, a day in which we recognize and commend your hard work, your sacrifice, and your incredible determination,” said Miller. “You’ve faced unprecedented challenges when it came to completing your degree – but you persevered. It is that perseverance that will serve you well as you enter into your careers and excel within your professions and become leaders in your community.”

The Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Office of the Provost named the following students as Outstanding Graduates for spring and summer 2020:

Aaron Aguilar, Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences: Exhibiting a legacy of leadership and Islander spirit, spring 2020 graduate Aaron Aguilar is moving onto post-graduate life with hopes of helping families and those in need of medical care for the long-haul.

Lauren Brown, Bachelor of Science in Nursing: Showing determination to persevere in the classroom and on the field, Islander nursing major and track team athlete Lauren Brown, summer 2020 graduate, is launching her nursing career ready to apply all she learned at the Island University to the task of saving lives during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Brittney Fricks, Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice: Fricks earned a Bachelor of Applied Science, Magna Cum Laude, and a minor in pre-law in spring 2020. Following her dreams of a career in courtroom, Frick’s interned in the Nueces County District Attorney’s Office in 2019, researching case law and common law. Her immediate intention is to enroll in law school.

Megan Greige, Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science: Earning the honor of presenting her research findings at the 2019 American Geophysical Union Fall meeting, Megan Greige’s next big goal is to pursue a master’s degree. The spring 2020 graduate then hopes to work for an institution of higher education or local or state conservation agency conducting research or helping communities develop plans to conserve their resources, restore their habitats, and mitigate their environmental impacts.

Jordan Wainwright, Master of Science in Kinesiology: In fall 2017, Jordan Wainwright was a goalkeeper on a full-ride scholarship for Islanders Women’s Soccer at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi when her health dramatically declined as a result of a renal disease. Upon finishing her undergraduate degree at the Island University and then enrolling in the Master of Science in Kinesiology program, Wainwright focused her thesis on her own health issues to better understand the physiology behind renal injury, which could ultimately benefit future Islanders soccer players. Wainwright earned her master’s degree in spring 2020.