In light of restrictions put in place due to the pandemic, President Claude Brulé delivered his speech to graduates remotely this year. Photo credit: Algonquin College

Although students who finished their studies last year expected to celebrate graduation face-to-face in the spring, Algonquin’s class of 2020 made do with a virtual convocation ceremony this fall.

Virtual convocation became available for all college departments on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020 at 10 a.m. If anybody missed the ceremonies, they’re still accessible through the convocation webpage. Ceremonies are grouped by department, with Pembroke and Perth campuses represented in their own ceremonies respectively. Through the main convocation webpage, graduates can still access their virtual commencement ceremony by clicking their department and viewing their pre-recorded, customized video.

Each department’s ceremonial video begins with the same message from college Ron McLester, vice president of truth, reconciliation and Indigenization.

“As guests, Algonquin College is proud to acknowledge that today’s convocation ceremony is taking place on the unceded, unsurrendered, traditional territory of the Algonquin-Anishinaabe people,” said McLester.

He then introduced Bear Nation, an Indigenous song and drum group who incorporates traditional languages of the Anishinaabe people into their music, to begin the ceremony.

All ceremonies proceeded similarly, with college Chris Jansen, vice president, academic, taking the stage after Bear Nation finished and thanking them for their performance. Janzen then welcomed those in attendance.

“Convocation is a very important event,” he said. “A time to celebrate our graduates’ achievements. I know this year’s convocation looks different.”

Janzen explained the decision for the college to move all convocation ceremonies online due to the provincial state of emergency and public health advice was difficult.

“With this said, I want each of you to know that if we could be in person, we would,” Janzen said. “Yes, this convocation looks different, but it’s definitely one that will make history.”

Janzen was followed by college Claude Brulé, the college president, who acknowledged that for graduates this was both a special moment and a long anticipated one.

“I am both humbled and honoured to have this opportunity to celebrate your resilience and success at a time that is unique in the history of the college,” said Brulé. “While we cannot come under one roof this year, we can come together as one college community.”

The virtual commencement ceremonies were distinguished from one another by speeches from the valedictorians. Each department was represented by its respective valedictorian, Perth and Pembroke campuses included.

International student Abishek Gupta, the valedictorian for Pembroke campus, delivered his virtual address from his home country of India.

“Look at yourselves today, and see how much you have grown,” said Gupta, a graduate of the outdoor adventure naturalist program. “The college has given us the right atmosphere for our minds to mature. Just like a tiny sapling to blossom into a mature tree.”

As with any typical convocation ceremony, the time came to introduce the graduating class. This portion was led by the respective faculty deans and consisted of a virtual graduate slideshow available through the convocation webpage.

Kalina Coppens, a graduate of the child and youth care program, included words of reflection with her slideshow submission.

“College was an unforgettable experience and I’m thankful for everyone that got me through it,” said Coppens. “Never doubt yourself.”

Graduates were invited to an exclusive Zoom meet-up post-ceremony, which they were able to access via a link they received in their Algonquin email inbox.

Janzen encouraged graduates to use their personalized commencement video, graduation slide and the other features available on the convocation webpage as a keepsake to remind them of their college experience.

“My hope is that we get to do this in person in the near future,” said Janzen. “But in the meantime, it is my pleasure to welcome you, our graduates, as our newest members of the Algonquin alumni association.”