May 17, 2023

Convocation organizers seek assistance as they ready the stage for spring ceremonies

Sign up online before May 26 to participate in this community-building event
Two volunteers help graduates pin on gowns and provide directions as the grads get ready to walk the stage.
Riley Brandt photos, University of Calgary

Spring convocation is just around the corner for soon-to-be graduates, and preparations for the ceremonies have kicked into high gear.

The annual rite of passage at the University of Calgary takes place over the course of multiple ceremonies at the Jack Simpson Gymnasium from May 29 to June 2, involving grads from 12 faculties. Those laying the groundwork for the festivities are looking forward to seeing more people contribute their time to help the events run smoothly.

“We have nine ceremonies this spring, where historically we’ve had eight. Like everything else at UCalgary, convocation is growing,” says Tanya Shawlinski, convocation co-ordinator in the Registrar’s Office, which is responsible for ensuring successful convocation ceremonies for both fall and spring semesters. Shawlinski and her colleague, graduation and convocation officer Jyoti Sharma, say they can always use more help.

“For each convocation ceremony, we require at least 50 collaborators, and we usually don't get all that we require,” says Sharma. Between marshals, ushers and degree distributors, she says there is always a job for everyone.

Event reaffirms our commitment to community-building

Convocation is the single-largest on-campus event hosted by UCalgary, with more than 4,000 grads expected to cross the stage over the five days of the spring session. As such, it is an ongoing effort year-round, with preparations for the next ceremony beginning almost immediately after the previous one is finished.

It's a labour-intensive job, but both Sharma and Shawlinski agree that seeing new graduates receive their degrees makes all their efforts worthwhile. “When the students are lining up in the Oval and you see them all dressed up and smiling and enjoying themselves, that to me is what makes my job complete,” says Sharma.

Convocation reaffirms UCalgary’s commitment to community-building, says Dr. James Allan, vice-president (advancement).

“UCalgary is not an ivory tower; we’re part of a much broader community of Calgarians, Albertans, Canadians and global citizens,” he says. “Convocation is a moment of renewal of that community — a moment when our students go out to take their place in that community — and a monument to the people who contribute to it.”

Allan encourages faculty and staff to get involved with the event’s preparations as a way to support students — and their families and supporters — during this moment of transition.

“Convocation is an opportunity for us to connect with the graduates. Even if you can’t lend your time to assisting with the event, going out of your way to help someone who looks lost shows you care about UCalgary’s mission to enrich our community.”

Andrew Quach, a student ambassador volunteer since 2019, says participating in convocation allows him the unique opportunity to find out where new graduates are headed.

“I love being able to talk to the graduates and hear what they’re up to next,” he says. “We’re all on the same path now but, once we graduate, we depart in such different directions.”

Quach says the joy of celebrating new graduates has kept him coming back for the past four years. Now in his fifth year finishing a degree in education and with a bachelor in sociology already under his belt, Quach says convocation reminds him to celebrate every moment.

“We all work hard for our degrees, but university isn’t just about studying,” he says. “It’s about making connections, meeting new people and being part of a community. Convocation celebrates that!”

Time slots to help with convocation are open until May 26 via online registration for all UCalgary students. Faculty and staff can register to take part. Students who choose to help with convocation can track their hours in the co-curricular tracker to reflect their involvement on campus and contribute to their employability. Refreshments will be provided to all participants.

“One day, I will also be graduating,” says Quach. “When I do, I hope there will be volunteers who will help me through the process like I have.”