Online Graduation Celebrations to Include Personal Touches

Vet school student Ricky Walther with his dogs
Student Ricky Walther recreates the photo he submitted for his profile that will displayed during the School of Veterinary Medicine's online graduation celebration. (Courtesy photo)

Graduation photos will include pets. A mother and grandmother will hood a medical student in the family’s home. And thousands of graduates will share messages of love and gratitude with family and friends.

While the social distancing of the COVID-19 pandemic has online celebrations standing in for this spring’s commencement gatherings, the campus and its students will still be celebrating educational milestones with personal touches and heart.


The commencement website will offer templates for lawn signs, posters, virtual backgrounds and more that can be downloaded and customized to enhance that show of Aggie Pride, and messages of support for the Class of 2020 can be posted on social media with the hashtag #DearUCDavisGrad.

Most professional schools will hold online celebrations on the same days the schools had planned for commencement — the School of Veterinary Medicine will be the first on Friday, May 22 — and a ceremony for baccalaureate graduates will be held Friday, June 12. Most celebrations will be accessible through campus webpages and Facebook Live.

Students at the Graduate School of Management and School of Law opted not to have online celebrations, but the law school will send a special video message to its graduates this coming Saturday (May 16).

‘A sense of community’

Ricky Walther submitted a photo of himself and his Australian shepherds to create a personal graduation profile, something that will be displayed for each participant in the vet school’s celebration. “We love our pets,” he said. “It was a fun way to include our animals.”

Chancellor Gary S. May announced on April 8 that spring commencements would be moved to virtual celebrations and the campus would explore holding an in-person commencement late in the calendar year. Graduate Studies and the professional schools are also considering late 2020 events.

As one of three presidents of the vet school’s class of 2020, Walther helped gather student ideas for the school’s celebration and participated in its planning.

What the 148 graduating students wanted most, he said, was a sense of community. So the school’s celebration, some of it prerecorded, will feature a “watch party” with live elements including the presentation of awards, speeches and the taking of the veterinary oath.

Photo of Tyler Carcamo
Tyler Carcamo  

Even as student speaker Tyler Carcamo addresses his fellow School of Medicine graduates over Zoom from his family’s home in Bakersfield on Friday, May 29, he will be speaking about community. “We have a village along the way that has supported us,” he said, “and never forget that.”

In an example of just that, the more than 100 medical school graduates have been invited to record themselves taking the doctor’s oath, and school staff are assembling clips of each recording into one complete recitation.

And as each graduate is recognized, they will have a moment to address their classmates and guests. Carcamo will have his mother and grandmother hood him.

Undergraduate celebration

For the undergraduate commencement celebration June 12, students have been invited to record the pronunciation of their name for a graduate roll call and create a personal profile with a photo and brief quote or message. The profile will become part of the celebration and can be shared by graduates on their social media. The deadline to register and submit profile content is this Friday, May 15.

The celebration will feature brief remarks from the chancellor and the guest speakers — all alumni — who were named earlier for what would have been three undergraduate commencements: Nadine Burke Harris, the first surgeon general of California; Francisco Rodriguez, chancellor of the Los Angeles Community College District; and Tracy Caldwell Dyson, NASA astronaut.

The online celebration was first scheduled for a Saturday, then changed to accommodate those who refrain from using electrical devices on the Jewish Shabbat.

Encouragement — and a caution

Both Walther and Carcamo understand that graduates’ pride of accomplishment is mixed with disappointment about postponed commencements. They appreciated their undergraduate commencements — Walther was awarded a bachelor’s degree in animal science from UC Davis in 2016.

Carcamo offered words of encouragement to the thousands of students anticipating undergraduate and advanced degrees. “Nobody and no pandemic can take away all the hard work you’ve put into yourself,” he said.

“This is bigger than us. It’s bigger than any one individual,” Carcamo added. “Sooner or later, this will be over, and we’ll have the opportunity to celebrate together.”

Then, as someone preparing to take on the full responsibilities of a health care professional, he cautioned UC Davis graduates to protect not only their own health, but also that of their families and communities: “Don’t let all the work go to waste.”

In 2018-19, UC Davis conferred a total of 10,219 degrees including 7,993 bachelor’s, 383 professional, 1,297 master’s and 546 doctoral degrees.

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