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What Is a Virtual Commencement and How Can You Join in the Celebration?

By University Staff

What Is a Virtual Commencement and How Can You Join in the Celebration?

UPDATED April 30, 2021

One of the lasting memories for every college student is the day that they celebrate the completion of their degree and realize that after all of the hard work and sacrifice, it was all worth it. To ensure graduates, their families, and faculty are able to mark this significant occasion safely from anywhere in the world, the University of Arizona Global Campus is hosting a virtual commencement to celebrate the first graduating class from UAGC on June 6, 2021, at 10 am PT. Be sure to check our Graduation Ceremony Information Page to learn more and how you and your friends and family can join in the celebration.

University leadership is excited to provide graduates with a memorable experience and has been preparing for the spring ceremony for several months. Recognizing that graduates often plan months or even years in advance to attend commencement in San Diego, they want to make sure graduates will have the best possible celebration given the circumstances. As such, the University is going “above and beyond” to create a fully immersive and inclusive live experience.

“This will be a virtual experience that acknowledges everything our graduates have accomplished,” explains the University of Arizona Global Campus Vice President Katie Scheie. “Everyone is invited to create their own celebration, gather family and friends together virtually or in-person, and view the ceremony together.

“I’m really excited to see all of the creative ways that our graduates participate.”

To help make this a memorable event, there are a number of “experiences” planned. Some of the many highlights included:

  • Video acknowledgements of Global Campus CHAMPS mentors, Honor Society students, and graduates of the University’s Honors Program
  • Doctoral graduate celebration featuring the Doctoral Hooding Ceremony and doctoral poster sessions
  • Keynote speech from Daniel "Doc" Jacobs, retired Navy Corpsman — the first amputee Corpsman and of all Naval Personnel to ever be assigned to an infantry unit — and founder of The Doc Jacobs Foundation, which funds sports scholarships for kids of military and veteran families
  • Speeches from Global Campus President Paul Pastorek, as well as University Deans Dr. Iris Lafferty and Bob Daugherty
  • Spotlight on the Alumni Association with information for graduates

However, perhaps the most exciting experience during the virtual celebration, Scheie says, is the option for graduates to produce individualized “stage clips” of themselves in their commencement attire. Every graduate will receive a link prior to the ceremony, which allows them to submit a picture or video and receive a custom clip with introduction and outgoing highlights that could be shared directly to their social media channels. 

“This wasn’t available for the virtual spring graduation celebration, and I’m really excited to see what our graduates will do with the stage clips,” she says.

In lieu of the traditional Saturday celebration that usually takes place on the Saturday before commencement, the University will host a “pre-party” event on Facebook, which will provide graduates a chance to brag about their achievements, win some UAGC swag, share their inspiring stories with others, invite family members to join in the fun and send well wishes to you and your classmates, and all come together as the Spring Class of 2021 to celebrate together — even if it’s virtual.

How to Throw a Commencement Party at Home

Because the university is a global campus, it’s not unusual for graduates to celebrate their greatest achievement from a distance. 

Past commencement ceremonies have been streamed online for graduates who were unable to make the trip to the San Diego location, and those who have stayed at home have gotten creative in their commencement planning. To help you stay organized and get your creative juices flowing ahead of the ceremony, the university created a Commencement Checklist that served as a guideline, provided some ideas on how to get festive, and ensured you can enjoy a stress-free virtual celebration. 

Then follow some of these additional tips below on how to make the most of your virtual commencement:

1. Background decorations are a must

If you’re someone who goes all out for the holidays, you already know a thing or two about decorations. This is one of those occasions where it’s perfectly acceptable to make the celebration all about you, so choose any room you like and give it a makeover with signs, streamers, or anything that puts a smile on your face. 

If you’re inviting friends or family to join you, encourage them to bring signs of their own. You could even kick it up a notch and have shirts made up with your face on them, with large lettering that says “Congratulations!” 

2. Send evites and announcements to friends and family

If your loved ones aren’t traveling to your home for commencement, you can still make a plan to have everyone together for your big moment. Send an evite or virtual graduation announcement with details on the commencement ceremony.

3. Host your commencement watch party online

Zoom and BlueJeans are among the video conferencing tools that have gained a global audience of users during the pandemic. But apps such as Houseparty also allow you to connect with friends and family, and Houseparty will even let you play trivia games during breaks in the ceremony.

4. Create a congratulatory video montage

Students are adept at forming friendships within the online classroom. One way to celebrate your collective accomplishments is to gather congratulatory video messages from each other and create a montage. You could be the person who kicks things off by creating a video congratulating one classmate, and then ask him or her to “pay it forward” by creating their video for another. 

5. Make a graduation story

If you’re not shy about sharing your personal achievements on social media, you can create a “story” for commencement. Start by taking videos and photos of the decoration process, then let your followers watch as you chronicle every moment of the big day. Don’t forget to include your “thanks” (like an award ceremony acceptance speech) and talk about all of the people in your support system that have helped you get through college. 

6. Cookies and cake

That’s it. Eat cookies and cake. Check out some of these delicious recipes. Enjoy!  

For even more inspiration, here’s how a few of your peers say they plan to celebrate (or already celebrated!) the completion of their degree program this year:

One Last Thing

Don’t forget to take a moment to celebrate yourself. Graduating from college is a significant life achievement, placing you firmly on the path to becoming a lifelong learner. Share your accomplishments with the hashtag #UAGCgrad21 and enjoy your success!

“This is all about celebrating your achievements, your sacrifices, and the incredibly hard work that you’ve put into finishing college,” Scheie says. “Our graduates represent our legacy, and we can’t wait to see what you do!” 

*Ashford University is now the University of Arizona Global Campus.

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