Behind The Scenes: The Dillard Virtual Degree Conferral

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Today we had this nice post from HBCU Buzz about our virtual degree ceremony we held on Saturday, the date of our commencement. Here is a short story about how it happened.

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Of course, around the second week of March we decided to go online for the remainder of the semester. Classes all moved on March 18th. We didn’t have any idea how long it would last so we figured we would be able to hold our ceremony as planned. However, the CDC came out with an 8 week ban of major events, along with similar stay at home orders by the Mayor and the Governor. That killed any idea about a traditional commencement.

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We broke the news to seniors via Zoom on March 19th. Of course they, as all seniors around the nation, were saddened by the news. We told them we still planned a fall event and were not cancelling, just postponing.

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A week before meeting with graduates, a friend who helps us secure talent for commencement and other events, shared an idea from USC where his son attends — a virtual degree conferral. I shared with Dr. Yolanda Page and Dr. Marc Barnes (the informal commencement brainstorming committee) and we agreed we could do this. So I worked on getting a special guest, and Dr. Page pulled together the committee.

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My only request was we try to make it unique. Lots of schools started announcing virtual commencements (basically the same event just virtually), and some others were doing degree conferrals as well. But we have a talented crew at Dillard so you just let them do their thing.

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Around mid April I was thinking it would be cool to have the students on campus — with their pictures. It was just a passing idea but when my assistant Kathy sent me an e-mail on April 19th suggesting we do yard signs with their pictures on them, I knew it was something we had to do. The team got on it as well.

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Mark Raymond, executive producer of the degree conferral

About two weeks out I did my first walk through with Mark Raymond, faculty in mass communications who has the production background (he does the taping of commencement each year), and Cortheal Clark, faculty in theater who handles all staging and logistics for commencement. The explained the concept and I was excited! A week before the ceremony we did another walk through where I taped my parts just in case we had bad weather on May 9th.

But the day was great. Between the live shots and taped segments, the event went off without a hitch. The team that made it happened are listed below. It was a great event.

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The Prez

Written by

7th president of Dillard University

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