On Saturday, the University of Michigan held online commencement activities in place of the cancelled Spring Commencement due to COVID-19. 

The online activities included a recorded message posted on the commencement page from University President Mark Schlissel, Interim Provost Susan M. Collins and the deans.

“Yes, these are turbulent times,” Collins said. “But smooth seas do not make the most skillful sailors. You are ready to put your many talents to work in a world that truly needs your energy and your ideas.”

Former Vice President Al Gore and American playwright Dominique Morrisseau, the previously planned commencement speakers, gave speeches, and alumni and coaches created congratulatory videos.

“I do believe these are the times that show us who we are and what we’re really made of,” Morrisseau said. “I look forward to seeing how this is going to impact you all, the future, a generation of future global citizens and how this will inspire you to make amazing global impact and change — positive change — that this world is going to need.”

There were also recorded performances by the Michigan Marching Band and the Men’s and Women’s Glee Clubs. 

In an effort to bring the celebration to social media, a “virtual maize out” invited people to post pictures wearing maize and blue with the hashtag “#MGoGrad.” Themed Facebook frames, Snapchat lenses, Giphy stickers and Zoom backgrounds were created as graduation-themed methods for the campus community to interact through social media platforms. 

Schools, colleges and other groups across campus also shared links to their graduation celebrations on the commencement page. LSA had a recorded message from LSA Dean Anne Curzan, as well as links to departmental celebrations.

“When I think of you, the graduates of 2020, the words that come to mind are resilience, care for each other and for this remarkable place that we call LSA and commitment to your education,” Curzan said. “You all have grit and you get to know that as you move forward.” 

The School of Music, Theatre & Dance had a message from Music, Theatre & Dance Dean Dave Gier, along with an interactive digital program showcasing work from graduating students. There were faculty and alumni congratulations, as well as a performance of “The Victors” by graduating musical theatre students.

The Ross School of Business was one of the few groups to hold a livestream event in celebration, which was recorded and posted for those who could not attend live. The event was held via Zoom and included speakers such as Michigan alum Brad Keywell, founder of Groupon.

“We are here as one family, connected, and that’s what really matters,” Keywell said. “Even though we can’t be together in person, what we’re doing is reflective of the Michigan way. We are taking lemons and we are making delicious lemonade.”

Despite all the online content and certain departments holding live events, there was no holistic live component to the commencement celebrations put on by the University, which some students found disappointing. LSA senior Lizzy Irvin viewed some of the videos Saturday morning, including the video posted by Curzan, and planned to watch more of the videos with her parents in the evening.

“I think they did a good job with what they covered,” Irvin said. “But, I wish there would have been more opportunity for interaction, or at least everyone doing something at the same time to feel more together.”

In an email to the campus community earlier this week, Schlissel said there is continued work at scheduling an in-person ceremony when it can be conducted safely. 


Daily Staff Reporter Iulia Dobrin can be reached at idobrin@umich.edu

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