UCalgary community comes together to celebrate graduates

Grad packs, online events help mark end of one journey and beginning of another

With June convocation postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, UCalgary’s convocation team wanted to find additional ways to celebrate the class of 2020.

Over the course of four weeks, Jyoti Sharma, Jeanette Ozon, Brian Brandt and Nicole Hutchuk, along with many volunteers from across the university, put together 4,800 grad packs. Students who chose to pick up their packs in person at MacKimmie Tower were greeted with graduation decorations, Rex and encouraging messages that staff volunteers had written in sidewalk chalk. President McCauley and Chancellor Yedlin made surprise visits to the tower to congratulate students in person.

“Not only the convocation team, but the UCalgary community really came together and went above and beyond to make this happen,” says Hutchuk, who led the grad pack initiative. “Everyone wanted to do something special for the graduates and put forth their best efforts to ensure that grads felt special and recognized for their efforts during this difficult time.”

As well as each student’s parchment, the grad packs include a mortarboard, bookstore coupon, alumni pin and letter from the student’s dean(s). Some faculties included a faculty-specific item for their graduates. “Golden tickets” were randomly placed in some boxes – which the lucky graduates can use to claim a special gift. Nearly 2,000 students came to campus last week to pick up their grad packs in person at allotted times to allow for social distancing.

“Once we were able to hand the grad packs directly to students, it really made all of the hard work worthwhile,” says Hutchuk. “It was so nice to see their excitement and watch them celebrate even though it was a very different type of celebration this time around.”

Jyoti Sharma, graduation and convocation officer, with grad packs

Jyoti Sharma, graduation and convocation officer, with grad packs.

The change of plans showcased the sense of community at UCalgary and across the city during these difficult times.

“We have a phenomenal campus community,” says registrar Angelique Saweczko. “We would not have been able to pull together the pick-up event without their support. I would like to give a special thank you to Rick Gysen and his team in campus security whose careful planning helped ensure everyone stayed safe. It was wonderful to see our graduates on campus. Students took advantage of the sidewalk chalk to leave their classmates congratulatory notes. I look forward to many more graduates joining us for the online celebration.”

The university is hosting an online celebration tonight at 6 p.m. The evening will kick off with messages from the chancellor and president before students join their classmates in special events for each faculty. Graduates will also be congratulated by Minister of Advanced Education Demetrios Nicolaides and Mayor Naheed Nenshi. As part of the whole community’s effort to celebrate UCalgary’s graduates, Calgary Tower was lit up in honour of the graduates, and Calgary Transit has posted digital congratulatory messages on some of its bus routes.