Celebrating seniors during COVID-19: four ways to recognize the class of 2020

Expert Insight

Celebrating seniors during COVID-19: four ways to recognize the class of 2020

Across the last ten days, a growing number of colleges and universities announced the postponement of May graduation ceremonies.  Some institutions plan to hold virtual celebrations for the Class of 2020 in May while others are looking to hold in-person events in September/December 2020 or May 2021.  In the wake of these announcements, institutions are searching for new ways to recognize seniors online, both individually and as a group. The ideas below came from the Student Affairs Forum’s recent virtual working groups. 

1. Recognizing student athletes via social media and yard signs

Some athletics departments are livestreaming Q&As with spring athletes sharing their reflections on their campus experience while other institutions are encouraging student athletes to share their favorite memories and photos on Twitter and Instagram.  At Johns Hopkins University, the communications and marketing team is currently in the process of creating yard and/or window signs for senior athletes and mailing them with flowers and cards to recreate Senior Day. These students are then encouraged to share a photo with the sign and their family online. 

2. Using videos to capture “Senior Stories” and thank yous

Buffalo State College (SUNY) is working on social media projects called “Senior stories” where students can send in a 30 second to 1-minute video of themselves reflecting on their time on campus or thanking individuals who helped them on their journey to graduation. The plan is that the institution’s communications and marketing team will put the clips together in an end of the year video to send to the whole class. 

3. Using snail mail to send class rings, yearbooks, and other items

Furman University is mailing seniors their class rings and asking them to post photos with them online.  If you plan to do something similar, be sure to give students the custom hashtags that you want them to use.  This helps the institution easily aggregate the photos and repost.  At Buffalo State College (SUNY), they do an annual reception and toast for seniors.  They are in the process of exploring whether they might be able to mail champagne flutes to students and do a virtual toast. 

4. Creating ways to share senior projects and capstones online

Spring semester is when many seniors share their research projects and creative efforts via poster sessions, art exhibits, performance showcases, and film festivals.  A number of institutions are thinking through how they might use online tools and platforms to provide a space for this sharing.  For example, the University of Toronto usually hosts a spring art exhibition that’s curated by museum studies students. While they can’t create the physical exhibition this year, they’re now doing a competition and creating a brochure, allowing students to curate the content in a different form. 

Are you doing something creative to recognize your seniors online? We would love to hear about it.  Email your tactic to Erothenberg@eab.com.

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