The University of British Columbia is preparing to host its busiest graduation ever this month as thousands of alumni who graduated virtually during the pandemic return for in-person makeup ceremonies.
In a typical year, UBC hosts eight fall graduation ceremonies at its Vancouver campus in November. This year, there will be 33 ceremonies in total, with 30 taking place in Vancouver and three at the Okanagan campus. Eight of the ceremonies are regular graduation ceremonies for current students who have now completed their studies and are eligible to graduate in 2022, while 25 are make-up ceremonies for the alumni whose graduation ceremonies were held virtually in 2020 and spring 2021 due to COVID-19 event restrictions.
The make-up graduation ceremonies take place Nov. 10 at UBC Okanagan, and Nov. 15-22 at UBC Vancouver. Graduation ceremonies for fall graduates of the class of 2022 run Nov. 23-25 at UBC Vancouver.
“Graduation is an important milestone to celebrate the culmination of many years of hard work and dedication for our students,” says Liz King, director of ceremonies and events at UBC. “That’s why we are excited to invite back our alumni who did not have the chance to graduate in person due to the pandemic so that they also get to experience the moment of donning a cap and gown and crossing the stage to celebrate their accomplishments.”
UBC invited back more than 26,000 alumni who graduated virtually in spring 2020, fall 2020, and spring 2021 to participate in makeup ceremonies. Over 5,000 grads in Vancouver and 600 in the Okanagan have indicated that they plan to attend.
‘Cause for celebration’
Alycia Steven, who graduated virtually in 2020 from UBC’s faculty of arts with a degree in political science, will be participating in one of the make-up graduation ceremonies on the Vancouver campus. As an international student from Malaysia, Steven says having an in-person graduation ceremony is an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishment of finishing her studies.
“My time at UBC was great and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but those first few years were definitely a struggle with having to start over completely in a new country, homesickness, and financial challenges,” she says. “It would have been easy to throw in the towel and move back home, but the fact that I stuck it out and made it to the end feels like cause for celebration.”
Steven, who now works in communications for the UBC faculty of arts, says attending graduation is also important for her parents and family who “sacrificed a lot” to send her to UBC.
“My parents never went to university and have been eagerly awaiting the day they’ll get to come to campus and watch me walk across the stage to get my degree conferred,” she says. “Being able to finally do that for them, even two years on, would be that final physical acknowledgment and sign of gratitude for everything they have sacrificed to give me an education.”
Evangeline Saclamacis, who graduated from UBC Okanagan with an applied sciences degree in 2021, is currently working with a renewable power generation business in Vancouver. She says there are a lot of emotions flowing as she looks forward to returning to UBCO for her Nov. 10 ceremony and connecting with former classmates.
“I’m excited to see how the campus has changed since I was last there and also inspired to see how much I have changed since I first started as a student in 2016,” says Saclamacis. “UBCO was a place that not only allowed me to grow as an individual but also allowed me to connect with people with similar aspirations and goals. I’m really excited to return and walk the stage, closing the chapter on my bachelor’s degree.”
A collective effort across two campuses
For King, organizing so many graduation ceremonies would not be possible without the collective support of the university community. In addition to staff leadership and support, there are also more than 400 student, faculty, and staff volunteers who help out serving as marshals, ushers, robing assistants, and wayfinding ambassadors.
The make-up ceremonies also mark the first time UBC Okanagan is hosting fall graduation, as the campus typically hosts only spring graduation in June.
“We simply could not do this without the help of hundreds of colleagues and volunteers across our two campuses who are pitching in to welcome these grads,” says King. “We want to make sure the ceremonies are special for all of our alumni and graduating students and their families and friends, especially those who have travelled from far and wide to be here with us for this occasion.”
Media interested in attending graduation are asked to RSVP with firstname.lastname@example.org.