More than 2,500 Thompson Rivers University students in Kamloops and Williams Lake can now take part in virtual convocation ceremonies, but the post-secondary institution is leaving the door open for graduates to cross an actual stage in 2021.
On Monday, TRU posted nine pre-recorded videos to its website, recognizing the class of 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic has axed large gatherings.
TRU provost Christine Bovis-Cnossen said there is a liveliness that comes from the crowd at a traditional TRU convocation in the Tournament Capital Centre that’ can’t be duplicated, but noted the university has tried to replicate the ceremonial feel in the virtual event.
“You can never replicate a convocation ceremony virtually,” Bovis-Cnossen said, referring to it as a social moment and rite of passage.
The videos start off with Secwépemc drumming and welcoming from elder Dina Jules, followed by speeches from TRU chancellor Nathan Matthew and TRU president Brett Fairbairn, as well as a number of congratulatory words from program deans and Premier John Horgan and Minister of Advanced Education Melanie Mark.
There are also speeches from valedictorians and biographies of this year’s 17 medal winners, along with a virtual guestbook for friends and family to sign.
Videos on the site also include those for this year’s honorary doctorate recipients Mona Jules, an elder with the Simpcw First Nation who has spent much of her life teaching and preserving the Secwépemcstín language, and Vera Schiff, a Holocaust survivor who has written books about her experiences and lobbied for justice and human rights.
The university is also making arrangements for graduates to have commemorative photographs taken in their cap and gown with TRU’s professional photographer.
On Monday night, TRU will light up its North Tower residence building between 10 p.m. and 11:30 pm. to honour the grads.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to make it as special as we can without being able to do a live event,” Bovis-Cnossen said.
She said postponing convocations to a future date wouldn’t have been fair to all graduates, noting the videos allow them to celebrate safely with friends and family in their homes and at their leisure, despite the pandemic.
While the proverbial crossing of the stage cannot be replicated via video, Bovis-Cnossen said a list of all graduates’ names will scroll over the videos. As for the physical parchments, those will be delivered to the class of 2020 through the mail.
While they will have already received their degrees, TRU is inviting the class of 2020 to attend a future graduation ceremony when restrictions have eased. The next two opportunities would be the October convocation this year or the June convocation in June 2021.
“We’re just waiting to see what the results are from the public health officer as to whether or not they’re going to allow gatherings of more than 50 people by October,” Bovis-Cnossen said.
The convocation videos went live Monday at 10 a.m. and can be found online at https://www.tru.ca/convocation.html