Arcadia Celebrates 2020 Grad-AWAY-tion

The Arcadia community gathered on the ‘virtual’ Green to recognize the Class of 2020 to acknowledge each member and confer degrees in a grad-AWAY-tion celebration on Friday, May 15.   

President Nair in graduation regalia at Arcadia podium, castle in background

President Nair

On the Arcadia 2020 Commencement website, graduates and their friends and family could hear from Provost Jeff Rutenbeck, President Ajay Nair, Board Chair Alison Aaron Madsen, Esq., '85, and U.S. Representative Madeleine Dean, one of the 2020 Honorary Degree recipients. The site had over 3,200 visitors for grad-AWAY-tion, watching from as far away as the Philippines, China, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates.

“Graduates, you’re clearly ready to rise to your next challenges and to change lives and improve the world through your personal and professional endeavors,” said Dr. Nair. “You should be proud of all that you’ve accomplished and excited to embark on this next phase of your life.”

Dr. Nair conferred baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral degrees and certificates to approximately 1,000 students in the pre-recorded ceremony, where viewers could watch it any time, and rewind or fast forward at their leisure.

Headshot of Rep. Dean

“I wish we could all be together today,” said Rep. Dean. “The difference between fortune and misfortune is often how you choose to look at it. You’re entering a new world armed with your formal education and the unasked-for-education of a pandemic. Lead with your humility, your strength, and most importantly, your deeper understanding of the interconnectedness and the interdependence of us all.”

Members of the Class of 2020 include the University’s first Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation recipient, a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant award recipient, and a two-time, First-team American Volleyball Coaches Association All-American, who led the team to their 2019 Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) Championship. In addition to these recognitions, members of the class have also participated in national scholastic conferences, received national recognition in their selective fields, and overcome personal adversities to graduate in the University’s first virtual ceremony. Graduates and their families and friends hosted watch parties of the ceremony, and had the opportunity to hear their names called in recognition of their degree.

Headshot of Alison Madsen

Alison Aaron Madsen, Esq., '85

“You should be proud of what you’ve accomplished,” said Board Chair Madsen. “I welcome each graduate of the Class of 2020 into our alumni community. I’m proud to virtually stand beside each of you as alumni.”

While members of the class regretted missing highlight senior events, they also recognized the situation that coronavirus has created around the world. In March, the University moved to online coursework through the rest of the semester, and all events were postponed, rescheduled, or canceled.

Headshot of Caitlin Joyce

Caitlin Joyce '20

“I was really looking forward to the Lavender Ceremony this year, as being an LGBT+ student has shaped my entire college experience,” said Sociology graduate Caitlin Joyce ’20. “One of the major factors of why I chose Arcadia was because I wanted to find a home which would not only accept, but celebrate the things which made me unique.”

Both Joyce and Media and Communications graduate Jonathan McCoy ’20 shared their excitement about the prospect of returning to campus this fall to celebrate the Undergraduate and Graduate Class of 2020, which is planned for Saturday, Sept. 26, depending upon the ability to safely hold a large-scale event.

Jon McCoy in graduation regalia

Jon McCoy '20

“Everyone has a right to feel how they want right now, but I personally admire the effort the school has put into place to try to give us something positive to remember about these months,” said McCoy. “I don't know where I'd rather be on Sept. 26.”

“Commencement usually signifies saying goodbye—something I've never been good at—but in September we can say hello again to friends and faculty we haven't seen in a long time,” said Joyce. “I'm looking forward to seeing everyone's faces and connecting with them again when it's safe to celebrate.”

Members of the Arcadia community and site visitors were invited to leave messages on the webpage for the class or use the #ArcadiaClassof2020 hashtag on social media. Attendees could also show their support on social media  through Facebook profile filters, Giphy stickers, and TikTok videos, which garnered over 14,000 engagements and 300,000 impressions across platforms. Students could also have some “Photoshop fun” and have their photo with the Knight.

On social media, attendees were also able to see the creativity of graduates. “Toast to the Class of 2020” and Commencement vlogs crafted by Because Arcadia senior bloggers showcased goodbye messages and Arcadia memories. All graduates were invited to submit their graduation cap designs for the chance to win prizes. The community is invited to vote from the 39 submissions for “Best Cap” on Arcadia’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram through Thursday, May 21. A winner will be announced on Friday, May 22.

“Class of 2020, you are awesome,” wrote Dr. Angela McNeil, director of the Act 101/Gateway to Success program. “Congratulations on persevering through a pandemic to achieve your academic goals!”

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