graduation graphic

December 07, 2020

SIU Carbondale virtual commencement to feature alumna, ‘Hamilton’ star Zoe Jensen

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. – Southern Illinois University Carbondale will recognize more than 900 fall 2020 graduates on Saturday, Dec. 12, with a virtual ceremony featuring a message from alumna and “Hamilton” star Zoe Jensen. In just three years, the 2017 musical theater graduate has gone from singing the “Star Spangled Banner” at her own graduation ceremony in Banterra Center to starring as Eliza Hamilton in the lead female role of the groundbreaking musical’s national tour.

Jensen, who grew up in Rockford, Illinois, participated in high school sports and the performing arts before attending SIU. After graduating, she worked as an actor at the Children’s Theater of Cincinnati before moving to New York and landing a role in the off-Broadway show “We Are the Tigers.” She then moved on to Broadway as a cover or understudy for two roles in the Tony Award-winning musical “Dear Evan Hansen.”

Ceremony will also recognize August graduates

There are 905 December graduates, some with multiple degrees, who have earned 681 bachelor’s degrees, 197 master’s degrees, 24 doctoral degrees, 10 law degrees and 17 associate degrees. The ceremony will be at 2 p.m. Saturday on the university’s YouTube channel and on the commencement website. In addition, August 2020 graduates whose degrees have already been conferred will be included in the virtual ceremony.

Graduates have shown Saluki trademarks

As with SIU’s virtual commencement in May, Chancellor Austin A. Lane said he wishes the ceremony for the graduates, their families and friends could be in person. He is pledging to those graduates and those honored this week that they will be invited to participate in a traditional, in-person commencement when possible.

“To earn their degrees, graduates have demonstrated the Saluki trademarks of grit, determination and spirit,” Lane said. “Over the last two semesters – as they have stayed the course in challenging circumstances – they have also demonstrated that they are adaptable and resilient. All of these characteristics will serve these graduates well in their careers and lives. I am proud to serve as their chancellor.”

Celebrate with an SIU digital kit

To enhance the event for graduates and their families and friends, the university has created a digital celebration kit to use in a variety of platforms, including art for social media, virtual backgrounds, and templates for printed materials such as pennants and yard signs.