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Family of CMU graduate virtually celebrates graduation from Colombia

On May 16, more than 3,000 miles from her family, Colorado Mesa University 2020 graduate Gabriela Rodriguez turned the tassel on her cap from one side to the other as her name was read aloud during CMU’s first-ever virtual commencement ceremony.  

At first, it was unfathomable for many 2020 graduates to image commencement being celebrated virtually, but like Mavericks, they took what was an unprecedented and challenging time in history and made the best of it.    

“Graduation was supposed to be the time when my family came to see my home and Mavily at CMU for the first time,” said Rodriguez. “It was the time when I would be able to show off our beautiful campus, my supporting professors and employers, and my apartment as a senior resident assistant. 

Because of COVID-19, the monumental moment Rodriguez had pictured for years changed in the blink of an eye. CMU students had the option to choose between a virtual ceremony in May or an in-person one in August. With travel uncertain and with Rodriguez getting into dental school, the family decided to "attend" the celebration online. 

"Nevertheless, I knew that my family and I would rise to the occasion and share one of the most special moments of my life together – like we always have,” she said.  

Rodriguez’s family, originally from Colombia, immigrated to the United States so her father could work in the oil industry. But in the middle of the fall semester of her freshman year at CMU the oil industry was struggling and her dad was laid off forcing the family to move back to Colombia.  

“This was the first time I had completely been away from my family,” said Rodriguez. “I had to share many of my accomplishments virtually. 

Rodriguez called home to Colombia when she got her first job in CMU’s human resource department, she FaceTimed them when she learned she got into dental school and they celebrated together through Zoom when she graduated from the university with honors. 

“I repeated, over and over, a million times, the moment where Gaby was mentioned as Summa Cum Laude and perfect 4.0 GPA,” said Rodriguez’s father German Rodriguez. 

For Rodriguez, her family is her biggest advocate.  

“Ever since I was a little girl, I can remember sharing various special moments with my family. Whether it was a recital, a golf tournament or simply dressing up as Shakira and performing in the middle of my living room, my family has always been with me,” said Rodriguez. 

Though the ceremony was virtual, the Rodriguez family celebrated it all the same. At the turning of the tassel, they all erupted with joy just as they would have if they had been in a crowd. 

“We dressed for the occasion here in Colombia and we enjoyed all of it. This is my first daughter’s graduation from college,” said German Rodriguez.  

“My parents taught me and my two little sisters to put in all our efforts into a job, regardless of how big or small,” said Rodriguez. My parents planted the seeds of hard-work, perseverance and responsibility. Now, they can watch these seeds flourish into beautiful flowers.”  

Rodriguez graduated with her Bachelors of Science in Cellular, Molecular and Developmental Biology.

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Written by Kelsey Coleman