Pomp and Pandemic

For the Class of 2020, a graduation experience like no other

By Eastern Magazine

At EWU, and on college campuses across the nation, graduation ceremonies are a celebratory rite of spring, a time when the diligence and dedication of seniors and graduate students is rewarded with cheers, hugs and high-fives. 

For the class of 2020, things would be different. By late May it was clear that the coronavirus pandemic would make the scheduled June 13 commencement ceremony impossible to hold — at least in person.

Jasmine Banga, a 2020 graduate in international affairs, with gown and PPE at a Roos Field photo shoot.

To ensure that each graduate got the recognition they deserved, EWU faculty and staff scrambled to create a commencement experience to rival the canceled event, a “virtual graduation” package meant to create its own set of lifelong memories for participants.

At the center of this effort was the creation, led by EWU’s Chris Robbins, director of strategic university planning, of customizable “commencement celebration webpages” for every graduate. These individualized webpages included recorded celebratory messages from President Mary Cullinan, Provost David May, the deans of EWU’s individual colleges and others. Graduates were encouraged to gather with their friends and families, tune into the customized celebration pages and watch the video tributes together.

The pages also included personalized messages, photos and videos submitted by each graduate, their family and friends, as well as EWU faculty and staff.

Students also received a special graduation kit in the mail, one loaded with items specially chosen to help celebrate the special milestone, including a link to a downloadable electronic program, an Eagle4Life window cling and a red EWU sling bag. The grad kits also included a special commemorative graduation edition of The Easterner student newspaper.

For those high achievers who were scheduled to receive honors and awards from their respective programs, many departments created special videos for their students. Visit our website to find links to a selection of videos, as well as links that will allow you to share in some of the moments and memories that made the class of 2020 so special.