Graduation 2020 marks a year to remember

It has been a year like no other for Western graduates, so it makes sense that the university is marking their achievements with a celebration like no other in its history.

From virtual greetings to a special webcast, new graduates will be feted for their achievements in a purple-and-proud way that they can share with friends and family in their own homes.

Hundreds of members of every faculty and department have played a role in making Friday’s virtual celebration meaningful for the more than 7,000 graduates of the Class of 2020.

An in-person Convocation with all its pageantry and regalia, and with graduates walking across the stage to hear their names read aloud, is still being planned for a later date when safe to return to campus in large numbers.

“It’s so important for students to celebrate this milestone that they’ve worked so hard for,” said Health Sciences professor Angie Mandich, who ordinarily heads Convocation ceremonies and has been part of a core team helping organize Friday’s graduation celebrations.

“We’ve had all sorts of people across campus showing we’re all in this together. The amount of work that’s gone into this, by all constituents, has been incredible.”

When the threat of COVID-19 closed campus in March and forced a postponement of Spring Convocation, Western set about making this an event to remember.

“This is a special year in a lot of ways. Many of these graduates didn’t have an opportunity for closure that others would have, simply by completing the semester together and having a chance to say goodbye to their classmates and faculty members,” said Tyler Forkes, Executive Director (Alumni Relations and Development). “So, the university is doing everything we can to let them know that they are special and to mark their graduation in ways that are meaningful and as engaging as possible.”

While grads and supporters can’t be on campus to celebrate, Western is bringing campus to them in many ways.

Grads can look for their hard-earned parchment – degrees, diplomas and certificates – to be delivered to their door, at no cost to them, wherever they are in the world. (Grads need to log in to Student Centre and select ‘diploma address verification’ on the right side of the page to confirm their current address.)

Each parchment is personalized on an 11×17-inch sheet of paper, with an embossed gold foil Coat of Arms and University Seal. It will be rolled into a triangular box, along with a personalized letter from the president.

“It’s quite a process to make sure we get the right diploma and the right president’s letter in the right box to the right address,” said Lisa Latif, Associate Registrar (Student Central) and Director of Administration.

There is also a suite of social-media mementoes to carry the day, including a virtual photo booth in which students can place themselves in front of campus landmarks, like University College Hill. From there, they can upload the photos to their social media feeds.

“We spoke with students to hear what it was like to graduate during a pandemic. Over and over again, they said they had been looking forward to, sometimes for years, that photo on UC Hill,” said Melissa Cheater, Western’s Digital Content Manager. “This way, we can bring UC Hill to them to tide them over until they can come back for the real thing.”

But that’s only one of the ways Western is celebrating its grads Friday. Other highlights include:

Congrats and thank-yous

Putting the social in social media

  • Graduates can proclaim their milestone to the world by using Western-designed Facebook frames and Instagram stickers.
  • Faculty-specific pages are also presenting way-to-go messages and images to and from graduates.

Welcome to the alumni family

  • Grads should watch their mail boxes for a class pin and “a number of special Western items,” said Alcina Stoetzer, Director (Institutional Engagement) in Alumni Relations and Development.
  • Western Alumni and Careers & Experience are also running a four-week Life Design virtual Masterclass to help graduates plan next steps. “The transition from student to alum is an important one, with a wide range of benefits and services,” Forkes said. “We want them to know how welcome they are to the alumni family.”

Grand finale for a new beginning

  • At 9:30 p.m. EST Friday, Western will bring campus to graduates virtually on Western’s Facebook and Instagram accounts with a symbolic gesture to honour graduates and the university’s newest alumni.