Convocation. For a university student, it is the day where years of hard work and study come to fruition. Normally celebrated with all of the pomp and circumstance that can be mustered for the occasion – the robes and hoods, the march through campus, the presence of friends, family, dignitaries, and special speakers – it is an event that culminates in the official presentation of a brand new class of graduates.
At Crandall University, this grand occasion has experienced its fair share of adaptation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Circumstances might have prevented an in-person celebration, but they did not manage to dampen the festivities; grads, friends, and families were able to tune in to Crandall’s online Convocation broadcasts on Saturday. Ceremonies were held for both 2020 and 2021 graduates, allowing both groups to attend and receive much deserved recognition for their years of study at Crandall University.
Here are a few of the highlights of this year’s convocation weekend.
Crandall University Leadership Awards
While both the morning and afternoon ceremonies featured similar content, the defining characteristic, aside from the list of graduates of course, was the 2020 and 2021 Leadership Award Recipients. These recipients also acted as Convocation Speakers for their respective livestreams, and had plenty of wisdom to impart on both 2020 and 2021 graduates.
Dr. Gary V. Nelson
The 2020 Leadership Award Recipient and Convocation Speaker for the morning ceremony was Dr. Gary V. Nelson, former President of Tyndale University in Toronto, Ontario. While Dr. Nelson had many wise and powerful words to share, his key message revolved around a statement made in a Tyndale University board meeting: “the pace of change is faster than the pace of learning.” Though it is a short statement, it carries a significant weight in both a world that is being shaped by a global pandemic, and the life of a new university graduate.
Dr. Nelson went on to describe the all-encompassing, full life transformation approach that Crandall takes on university education, emphasizing that, in a world where the pace of change is faster than the pace of learning, the virtues and foundations learned at Crandall “will stand the test of time, while all else around you changes.” Dr. Nelson continued by saying that while the transformation that students experience throughout their time at Crandall benefits themselves, it is truly a benefit to the world around them, as graduates prepare to enter into society, the workplace, and life in general as much needed salt and light in the world.
Dr. Nelson concluded his impassioned speech by referencing a book on spirituality in everyday life by Sue Monk Kidd. In this book, the author says that a life lived like Philippians 4:8 – dwelling on true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, and praiseworthy things – is a subversive act against evil and a call to say to the darkness “I beg to differ.” Gary, who shared his love of this phrasing, then imparted his own take on Kidd’s quote, saying “may your future be such a statement in whatever you do in the coming years that, as you face your living and your future workplaces, you would become the kind of people that say, ‘I say to the darkness, I beg to differ.’”
Dr. Kim Phuc Phan Thi
The 2021 Leadership Award Recipient and Convocation Speaker for the afternoon ceremony was Dr. Kim Phuc Phan Thi, known around the world as “the girl in the picture” after she was immortalized in a 1972 Pulitzer Prize winning photograph depicting her, at the age of nine, running naked down a road in Vietnam following a napalm explosion. Dr. Phan Thi went on to become the Founder of the KIM Foundation International, which is dedicated to providing funds to international organizations that provide free medical assistance to children who are the victims of war and terrorism. She also travels the world as a UNESCO Global Goodwill Ambassador.
Dr. Phan Thi led her speech with the idea of hope, a concept that would run through her entire message. She went on to say that there were many times in her life where she was afraid to hope, but despite the fear of wondering what came next, she continued to place her hope in God. “The fact that you are graduating is the result of you not losing hope. You have persevered and overcome and already proven that your hope is not so easily destroyed.” She said. With that, she also presented a challenge to never give up on hope, saying that, in life, there will be many times that you cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. What should you do in these difficult seasons then, Dr. Phan Thi ponders? Take a rest. “Working on your inner person does not mean laziness and it does not mean weakness,” she stressed, “we all need to pause sometimes and allow our inner hope to recharge us. The pandemic certainly showed us the need for that.”
Dr. Phan Thi concluded her message with the wise words “each obstacle does not have to be a cause for your hope to die. Instead, it can be an opportunity for your hope to become even stronger… allowing you to strengthen others.”
Faculty and Staff Greetings
One advantage of a virtual ceremony is that it provides an opportunity to do things that would not otherwise fit into the program. For Crandall’s online Convocation, it was the opportunity to have faculty and staff share their greetings and congratulations with the graduates. The heartfelt words that were shared were a unique and memorable element to the experience.
Post Convocation Meet & Greet
Following each Convocation ceremony, attendees of the livestream were able to join a TEAMS group specific to their program of study for a brief meet-and-greet with their fellow grads and faculty members. This was a special treat for all graduates, but was especially cherished by 2020 grads as this portion of the event also acted as a sort of reunion for them and their peers, many of which hadn’t seen each other since their academic year came to a sudden halt at the start of the pandemic.
Prior to the weekend’s festivities, 2020 and 2021 graduates were also mailed personalized graduation packages full of alumni themed Crandall Swag. These packages were the result of a search for a new, COVID-friendly, opportunity for grads to celebrate their achievements and proved to be an all-around crowd-pleaser!