Graduation in the Time of COVID-19
By Mitchell Stewart
You’ve worked hard. You’re excited to start the next chapter of your life. It’s a big event. But this year, due to the pandemic, large social gatherings are banned, including graduation ceremonies. Bummer, right?
20-year-old Kassidy Mccubbin doubts convocation will be the same in the spring when she graduates from nursing at St. Clair College. “You don’t get that ‘I really did it’ feeling that you would normally get when you walk across the stage and be physically handed your diploma.” Mccubbin’s graduation ceremony is planned to be online.
Maeve Dufor, 21, a UWindsor chemistry student who also expects to graduate online in the spring accepts that it’s just part of life under COVID. “It’s disappointing because we won’t get an in-person ceremony but it’s for the best to get our community COVID-free.”
“The idea of a virtual experience requires a lot more attention to thought,” says Chris Busch, the Associate Vice-President of Enrolment Management at the University of Windsor, who notes moving convocation online hasn’t been any easier for staff. Out of this challenge comes opportunity, however. “The virtual way actually provides us with a way to not ignore tradition, but to really re-examine what the traditions have been and where we might be able to enhance it,” said Busch. “Traditionally, our convocation doesn’t involve students as much but the virtual one actually allowed us to do quite a bit more.”
Busch and his team focused on acknowledging the students in the virtual convocation, incorporating more addresses from graduates and such, and allowing each student to upload a picture and a quote when their name was called. “While that requires a lot more organizing which is what made it much more difficult, I think it actually had the potential to be much more impactful or at least more about the student.”
Some found the virtual convocation to be a pleasant experience. Chris Zorbas, 23, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communication, media, and film in the fall. Zorbas was very surprised with the acknowledgement he received. “I think they went through a pretty reasonable length to still make it feel special,” says Zorbas. “It’s hard to sort of grasp the gravity of the achievement, but once I saw the grad cap and put it on all of a sudden, it felt like a real achievement.”
Compared to his twin brother’s graduation ceremony at the University of Ottawa during the pandemic, Zorbas says Windsor’s was far more elaborate. “All they really sent them (Ottawa graduates) was a tassel and that was about it. Windsor sent us a whole package. My brother’s grad ceremony was just a slideshow with their names printed on the screen but ours had a picture of us on the screen; our names were read out, which was nice, and then also we got to type in our own personal message to the graduating class ad our family.”
Despite these trying times, Zorbas felt like he was well acknowledged for his achievements. “It’s unfortunate that I lost my chance to walk across the stage, but at the end of the day the University put in a pretty good effort to at least make it feel special.”
Watch the full interviews with Chris Busch and Chris Zorbas.