OAKLAND, Calif. - More than 400 students walked across the stage Saturday morning at Mills College in Oakland; it was the first in-person ceremony since 2019 and the last as an all women's undergraduate institution.
"This is super exciting," said Jessica Moore, graduating with her Masters in Child Life. "It's actually the first time most of us get to meet our classmates in person."
COVID-19 canceled in person ceremonies in 2020 and 2021. Those classes were invited back to celebrate with the class of 2022.
"I can't say I don't have butterflies," said president Beth Hillman. "I can't say I don't feel unusually excited because I always do on this day, so I have to say it feels special but also absolutely what we should be doing."
After struggling with financial trouble and declining enrollment, the college agreed to merge with Northeastern University.
Dealing with change is the theme of Jesmyn Ward's commencement speech. She is the only person of color to win a National Book Award in fiction twice.
"I wanted to sort of speak to how you navigate that," said Ward. "Navigate change and still remain true to who you are."
The changes won't affect this year's graduating class, but it's still on the minds of students. They hope the Mills College of Northeastern University will give future students the same opportunities they had.
"Everything happens for a reason," said Masters graduate Angela Nwkike. "It is unfortunate for us, however I feel like the staff that are here will still be able to provide wonderful education for students coming in and be able to support them the best way they can."