Kristen McCartin, CMP

Kristen McCartin, CMPMaking Virtual Graduation a Reality

On the Front Lines:
UMB Champions of Excellence
Office of Student Affairs, School of Medicine

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s (UMSOM) Class of 2020 in-person graduation ceremony to be canceled, the Office of Student Affairs’ events specialist, Kristen McCartin, CMP, started looking for unique ways the class could celebrate this important milestone.

“Knowing that we would not be able to gather everyone together for our usual graduation ceremony made it even more important for us to create a meaningful way to recognize the incredible achievements of our students,” said McCartin, who worked diligently to create joy during a challenging time.

With six weeks to work with before the planned date, McCartin started brainstorming and planning for alternatives with faculty, staff, and students. Her work resulted in a virtual ceremony that featured remarks from Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, who’s also the executive vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB), as well as faculty and student speakers, video tributes, a reading of graduate names, the conferral of degrees, and a recitation of the Hippocratic oath.

Students also received a commemorative graduation package, sent in partnership with the Medical Alumni Association, that included a diploma frame, copies of the graduation program, and other keepsakes. More than 100 students and faculty attended the Zoom event May 14, with family and friends watching on YouTube.

“Getting to see everybody enjoy the ceremony on Zoom was the biggest highlight for me,” said McCartin, who joined UMSOM in June 2019.

She added a personal, student-only touch with a slideshow sent to all classmates that included a slide for each student featuring their photos, achievements, favorite medical school memory, and postgraduation plans. That amount of detail, thought, and dedication made her a UMB Champion of Excellence. Believe it or not, it was the first virtual event she’d organized outside of a webinar.

“Being named a UMB Champion of Excellence is a true honor,” McCartin said. “I’m really passionate about creating meaningful programs and events that support our students and celebrate their impressive accomplishments.”

McCartin says she is humbled by the award and couldn’t have done it without a dedicated UMSOM team, including Reece; Donna Parker, MD, associate professor of medicine and senior associate dean for undergraduate medical education (and formerly associate dean for student affairs); Kevin Brown, MA, executive director, Office of Medical Education and Office of Student Affairs; Kevin Enright and Lisa Joseph of the Dean’s Office; and Kris Rifkin, Larry Roberts, MS, MBA, and Thomas Jemski of the Office of Public Affairs.

“It’s always my hope that my work is a reflection of the excellence my colleagues and the students at the School of Medicine and the University exhibit each day,” McCartin said.

While the virtual graduation celebration signaled the end of one school year, it brought to light that McCartin’s work was just beginning in having to rethink future events that would need to be held virtually as a result of the pandemic.

”To be a good event planner, you have to be resilient and very adaptable to change,” she said. “I see this as a time to find new opportunities and ways of bringing our students, faculty, and family and friends together.”

— Charles Schelle