Kate Long, '20, wasn't sure she wanted to walk in the University of North Dakota's spring commencement ceremony on May 16, 2020.
It was going to be so long - and besides, she planned to go to law school and would walk in that more meaningful ceremony in a few short years.
When her grandmother, Linda, called with the news that she would be flying from Houston, Texas, to Grand Forks, North Dakota, to see her oldest grandchild receive her diploma, Kate had no choice but to change her plans. She would make her proud grandmother happy by walking through the ceremony.
But Linda's plans to fly, and Kate's plans to walk, were dashed when the coronavirus pandemic made travel inadvisable and canceled UND's spring graduation ceremony altogether.
Linda wouldn't get to see Kate receive her diploma, an achievement she wanted to witness out of pride for her granddaughter. After all, Kate was about to become the first in their family to earn a university degree.
"My parents did fine without a college education, so higher ed was never something that was forced on me;' said Kate, a Political Science major who also completed minors in History and International Studies.
"My parents never said, 'You should go to college.' It was 'Only go to college if you really want to, because it's expensive."'
But Kate had dreams, and her parents supported her when she said she wanted to chase them. She liked debate and government classes, and was particularly motivated by social justice. Her self-described "pet cause" drives her to pursue her goals. "I would love to work for the International Justice Mission that fights human trafficking" she says.
Her jobs at Texas Roadhouse and UND's Center for Innovation have cut hours, resulting in smaller paychecks. But those cuts have resulted in something else: More time for the important things. "It's been a time to focus more on school. And I've been planning out nice meals for myself and my roommates.
We planned a wonderful movie night that we would never have had time for otherwise," she said. "You definitely have more time to connect with people and I really enjoy that."
The history buff acknowledges that living during this "intense historical event" will impact her in ways that she can't yet grasp. But she's taking it one day at a time, sitting back and observing people's reactions to the circumstances. "I've learned that it draws out the worst in people;' she said. "But it also draws out the best.''
By Alyssa Konickson, '06