Celebrating More Than 1,000 Graduates During BSU’s 101st Commencement

Students during the processional at the centennial commencement.

On May 8, more than 560 students, family members, faculty and staff joined to congratulate Bemidji State University’s Class of 2020 and acknowledge students’ commitment to the campus community in a virtual event broadcast on Zoom.

The virtual recognition honored feedback from graduating students, most of whom preferred to postpone a formal commencement ceremony rather than replace it with a fully virtual alternative.

Of BSU’s 1,008 graduating students:

  • 45 students who were eligible to receive master’s degrees: eight master of science degrees, nine master of arts in teaching degrees, 11 master of special education degrees, three master of arts in English degrees and 12 master of business administration degrees;
  • 963 students who were eligible to receive undergraduate degrees, including 189 graduates from BSU’s College of Arts, Education & Humanities, 360 from the College of Business, Mathematics and Science and 455 from the College of Individual & Community Heath;
  • 326 undergraduates who graduated with honors: 87 Summa Cum Laude honorees, 115 Magna Cum Laude honorees and 124 Cum Laude honorees;
  • 45 American Indian graduates;
  • 29 internationals students; and
  • 36 military personnel or veterans.

President Faith C. Hensrud opened the event by thanking students, family and friends in attendance for supporting each student on their journey to graduation. She congratulated the class of 2020 and recognized the perseverance and grit it took to reach the end of the semester amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Graduating from college is one of the truly monumental milestones in any person’s life. Even in the best of times, it’s an achievement to be celebrated,” she said. “Not only have you reached this milestone, you’ve done so during an entirely unprecedented time as the world responds to COVID-19.”

She went on to assure graduates that Bemidji State plans to hold a traditional 2020 commencement ceremony at a later date and expressed her excitement to do so.

“Like each of you, I wish we had spent this afternoon together in the Sanford Center,” she said. “I wish I could be looking out now at hundreds of you in your caps and gowns, enjoying the energy of your friends, families and loved ones in the audience — with the occasional horn blast from one of your dads or a shoutout from your little brother meant to embarrass you as you walk across the stage. I want to shake your hand, congratulate you, and see how you’ve decorated your cap.”

Hensrud concluded her opening remarks by sharing her pride in each graduate’s accomplishments, and acknowledging the opportunities presented in hardship.

“You now know that you can respond to and succeed under conditions of adversity,” she said. “You know you can enter the unknown and still find success. And you know how to keep your focus and stay the course during this extraordinary time. These are lessons that will serve you well for the rest of your life.”

Addressing Today’s Graduates

Bemidji State University’s Class of 2020 was addressed virtually by Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Chancellor Devinder Malhotra; Jay Cowles, chair of the MinnState Board of Trustees; United States Senator Amy Klobuchar; Stacia Goodman, a Minneapolis-based artist commissioned to install a mosaic on the new Hagg-Sauer Hall; Acting Vice President for Academic Affairs Allen Bedford; Associate Vice President of Student Life and Success Travis Greene; Executive Director for University Advancement Josh Christianson on behalf of the university’s more than 45,000 alumni; and by academic deans, faculty and staff.

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar

Senator Klobuchar’s surprise appearance congratulated the graduates and recognized their hard-earned achievements – even naming a few by name. She highlighted BSU’s unique campus community and all that it has to offer students.

“Bemidji State is so much more than a place of learning,” she said. “It’s a community. A place where minds are enriched, perspectives are expanded and lifelong friendships begin. I know that for many of you it’s been a long journey. Some of you are the first person in your family to graduate from college. Some of you have had to balance jobs and families and other responsibilities in order to get your degree. And all of you have had to overcome obstacles to get to where you are today. You’re proof that hard work, persistence and a supportive network can truly change people’s lives.”

She continued to discuss the power of education and its affects on the diversity, innovation and inclusivity of the current generation, including Bemidji State’s Class of 2020.

“You’re graduating from a first-class university at a challenging time…I have no doubt you’re prepared for this,” she said. “I’ve seen your generation’s passion for making our world a better place…I know that you’re ready to take what you’ve learned, to do the very best you can and in the end, because of you, our nation’s future looks brighter.”

Chancellor Devinder Malhotra

Chancellor Devinder Malhotra delivered a message to all graduates from the Minnesota State system of colleges and universities which highlighted the impressive determination each student displayed by reaching the end of their senior year amidst a pandemic.

“Graduation is a seminal moment in your educational journey and I know you and your families have been anticipating it for a long time,” he said. “The resolve and grace you have demonstrated in preserving through your studies are all the more impressive and inspiring in light of the challenges and obstacles this global health crisis has thrown your way.”

Board of Trustees Chair Jay Cowles

Cowles commended all graduates for the hard work, sacrifice and endurance they dedicated to their education. He emphasized the continued journey of education that exists outside of higher education and that graduates will always have a place to call home at MinnState.

“Know as you leave this place that it, and the 37 colleges and universities of Minnesota State, will be here for you throughout your career – no matter your need, or the place you find yourself on your educational journey,” he said.

Cum Laude Honors

The practice of recognizing outstanding academic achievement with Cum Laude honors dates to the earliest European college and university practices in the 13th century. Summa Cum Laude denotes graduates with cumulative grade point averages of 3.90 or higher, Magna Cum Laude recognizes those with GPAs between 3.70 and less than 3.90 and Cum Laude recognizes those with GPAs between 3.50 and less than 3.70.

Bemidji State University has partnered with a company called Luster to produce a keepsake mosaic image featuring you and your friends, family and fellow graduates.

Learn More!

Graduates can also expect to recieve packages in the mail containing a cap and tassel, a certificate of achievement signed by President Hensrud, a commencement program and an BSU-branded cloth face mask.




MN State logoBemidji State University, located amid the lakes and forests of northern Minnesota, occupies a wooded campus along the shore of Lake Bemidji. Enrolling around 5,000 students, Bemidji State offers 70 undergraduate areas of study and eight graduate degrees encompassing arts, sciences and select pre-professional programs. At Bemidji State University, we educate people to lead inspired lives. BSU’s Shared Fundamental Values include civic engagement and leadership, international and multicultural understanding, belief in the power of liberal arts, and environmental stewardship. BSU is a Minnesota State university. For more, visit bemidjistate.edu or find us at BemidjiState on your favorite social media networks.