On the morning of Saturday, May 2nd, Nichols celebrated Commencement as usual. Not really. Commencement in the time of COVID-19 has turned into a unique experience for almost every college in the country. It posed a challenge to make this occasion as meaningful as possible to our seniors, their loved ones, and their friends.
While the graduates have been promised an in-person Commencement at a later date, I wanted students to come away from the celebration event feeling recognized, properly honored, and loved. They spent four good years at Nichols, made strong friendships, learned much, and now are headed to success in their chosen careers.
For me, this felt bittersweet. I missed being able to see students in person during the end of the semester and their typical senior week events. Nevertheless, we stayed upbeat and celebratory while still being mindful that we were celebrating in the midst of an international health crisis.
“The disruption you experienced this semester is unprecedented. but can there be a better class number than 2020? I think not,” I intoned on Zoom. “I remember joking about this during our Fall 2016 welcome event. I said that you would be able to look back on your time at Nichols with perfect 20/20 vision. And will you ever.”
This celebration also conjured numbers of the digital kind. At our peak, we had over 750 people around the country and beyond watching live at the same time. By the following Monday morning, we counted nearly 3,000 views. The livestream garnered 150 comments, and across our social media channels, the event resulted in over 168,000 impressions on Saturday alone.
As I reassured the graduates in virtual attendance — in real time or asynchronously, “Think of the story you will tell in the years and decades ahead to your children and grandchildren. With your perfect hindsight, you’ll say, ‘Back in my time, in the Class of 2020, we made history!’”
Yes, we did.