Iowa Central improvises for memorable ceremony

Pandemic prompted a virtual graduation

A college commencement ceremony is a time for graduating students to say goodbye to their school days and hello to their futures, surrounded by their friends and families. Those few hours in caps and gowns create cherished memories that last for a lifetime.

But what if a graduation ceremony just isn’t possible because of circumstances that are completely beyond the control of any student, professor or college administrator?

That was the situation the Iowa Central Community College class of 2020 found itself in. The class was ending its community college career in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the social distancing guidelines necessary to combat the virus made a traditional in-person graduation impossible.

However, the college’s administration, faculty and staff was not about to let the class of 2020 go without some kind of celebration of its accomplishments. Simply mailing the diplomas to the graduates was not an option.

So to honor the graduates, a team led by college Registrar Courtney Kopp developed a virtual graduation, which premiered on the college’s website Friday. It had all the elements of a traditional graduation: music, speeches, and graduates in caps and gowns. But none of the participants were on the campus that evening.

The speeches and music were all recorded earlier. The graduates sent in photos of themselves in their caps and gowns. The college’s radio and TV production department crafted all of that into one program.

A total of 655 graduates participated.

The class of 2020 consists of 1,047 people.

While the virtual ceremony is over, college President Dan Kinney has pledged to don his graduation gear again to pose for photos with any of the class of 2020 members who want to take him up on the offer when it is safe to do so.

The leadership of the college went above and beyond to create a meaningful and memorable graduation ceremony in unprecedented circumstances. Kopp’s team had no guidelines to turn to for recommendations. Instead, the team members relied on their own sense of what was possible. The result was something that the class of 2020 will remember for a lifetime.


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