MOSCOW — The University of Idaho’s Class of 2022 huddled under umbrellas and plastic ponchos Saturday morning, but the rain and cool temperatures didn’t dampen their Vandal spirit.

More than 1,000 students wearing caps and gowns shared laughs, snapped photos and talked about the future as they eagerly waited to enter the Kibbie Dome and officially become college graduates.

Some have jobs lined up and others are returning to campus to earn a second degree or attend graduate school. The hot job market makes the next step a bit easier, but many employment opportunities require a move across the country or residing somewhere with sky-high rental prices and living expenses, they said. With that in mind, some opted to work closer to home in fields that don’t necessarily correlate to their new degrees.

Brady Thompson, 22, of Coeur d’Alene, earned a degree in political science. He originally planned to study law, but an advisor told him not to head down that route unless he was 100% invested.

“I wasn’t 100% into it, so I switched majors,” Thompson said. Now he’s headed to Boise for a management position at an RV dealership.

Charles Holapa, 23, of Pullman, majored in economics and will be moving to Cheney to manage a new store.

“I’m really excited about it,” Holapa said. “The job market is pretty good, but the biggest issues are availability and being willing to relocate.”

Of the 1,166 UI students who applied to graduate, 1,059 earned bachelor’s degrees, 282 earned master’s degrees, 66 got their doctoral degrees and 157 earned juris doctorates.

“This is the culmination of hard work and determination, but also perseverance in challenging times,” said UI President Scott Green. “Our graduates, despite everything they’ve been through, are ready to hit the workforce and lead their industries.”

Donald Scott Hammar, 32, studied journalism and hopes to become an international correspondent, focusing on Chinese-American relationships. The Post Falls native traveled the world before earning a degree and plans to fly to Taiwan to continue his Mandarin education.

“I loved the journalism department,” Hammar said. “All of my professors went the extra mile, and the way they handled Covid was outstanding. I’m excited about the future. I think this is going to be a great career.”

Emma Von Till, 23, of Spirit Lake, Idaho, wants to be an actress. She majored in theater and will student teach before heading to Los Angeles to achieve her dreams. Acting runs in the family, she said, and her aunt, Katie Von Till, is the current voice of Snow White for Disney.

Mountain Home, Idaho, resident Tucker Holland, 24, also has his sights set on acting. He studied acting, majored in film and television and wants to finish another degree in theater arts.

“I love to act, so why not get a degree in it? Right now, I’m enjoying life,” he said.

Kassidy Wigen, a 23-year-old Coeur d’Alene native, is sticking around UI to earn a master’s degree. She majored in English.

“I love to read and write, and it’s actually my passion, so I thought I’d just go for it.”

Faculty members who were not in the procession greeted the students as they entered the Dome. Sydney Freeman, who teaches in the Education Department, was wearing a custom-made blue velvet robe and waving at familiar faces.

“I have been wearing this to ceremonies for 11 years,” Freeman said of his attire. “I love graduation day. It’s a time to celebrate.”

Another person who doesn’t mind making a fashion statement is the commencement speaker, Don Shelton, former executive editor of the Seattle Times. During his introduction, President Green said Shelton dressed up as Alice Cooper on the final day of classes, “much to the delight of his students.”

Shelton, a 1976 UI grad, worked in the newspaper business for 43 years, before returning as an adjunct professor two years ago to teach journalism.

“You inspire me,” Shelton told the Class of ‘22 several times during his speech.

This group of students endured a worldwide pandemic, an economic shutdown and social unrest, he said. It was akin to combining the Spanish Flu of 1918, the Depression in the 1930s and Civil Rights movement of the [60s into one time period.

Shelton said his college experience almost 50 years ago was much easier. When he was pounding out news stories on a typewriter, he never dreamed of how technology would change during his career. “Change is a given,” he said.

However, some things remain the same. Journalists are still offering the first draft of history, committed to telling the truth and holding people in power accountable, Shelton said.

This group of graduates has already made history by completing classes remotely and through Zoom. They’ve gone through COVID-19 tests and quarantines, he said, and some are the first college graduates in their families.

Shelton said he has high expectations for their futures. The Class of ‘22 is poised to write a remarkable next chapter, and he “can’t wait to read it.”

Sandaine can be reached at

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