This is the second story in a series in which students set to graduate in December reflect on how their final semesters at Illinois State University have been impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Undergraduate student Matt Cunanan wrote the following post about his final semesters at Illinois State.

If you were to ask me five years ago what my expectations were for my graduation, I would most likely say that I’d be graduating with my bachelor’s degree in nursing and biology, hoping I would already be accepted into a medical program on the West Coast. However, I am graduating as an accounting and business information systems double major with my minor in economics. I thought switching my major to a completely unrelated discipline was quite a surprise, but the biggest surprise for me was the thought of graduating without commencement among my peers due to COVID-19.

Gerard Matthew Cunanan
Gerard Matthew Cunanan

Walking on the stage has been a dream all of us students fantasize about while we study for our finals, hoping we would be here at this point. It provides a tangible memory of all the hard work and effort we have put forth during our time here at ISU. As my time is winding down as a student, I truly wish I could go back in time to cherish all the memories I had taken for granted.

Last spring, I was doing an internship when I heard the news that ISU would be moving to a remote environment for all students due to COVID-19. I thought I was lucky; I was not in remote learning until I returned to campus this fall in order to finish my final classes here at Illinois State.

During my internship, I had missed all the relationships I built with my peers and my professors throughout my time at ISU. I came back to an empty campus with empty classrooms. Returning to a fully remote learning environment was a situation that I had never thought would happen to me. This pandemic took away my senior year celebrating with my peers in our final year at Illinois State and the opportunity to cherish all the activities I had enjoyed as a student.

Despite being unable to personally thank my professors in person and my peers who chose to stay home, I want to thank everyone who has played a role in my development as a student and my future professional career. This upcoming fall I will be working as an audit associate at KPMG, and I am looking forward to starting my professional career. It’s been a great ride at Illinois State these 4.5 years as an accounting major, and I’ve been provided plenty of opportunities throughout my time here. It’s a bittersweet and sad moment that my time at ISU has come to an end. I am a PROUD REDBIRD and will be forever grateful to all my peers, my professors, a special someone, and all those I have come across. I will always cherish my Redbird family. It is true, once a Redbird, always a Redbird.


For information about commencement, visit the Graduation Services website.