There wasn’t a lot of pomp due to the circumstances.
But what there was no shortage of, over the course of May 14 and 15, was senior leadership, deans, and faculty proudly praising graduates of the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) in digital displays of celebration emanating from desktops and devices galore, congratulating the Class of 2020.
Graduates traditionally participate in school-specific convocations held at venues throughout the UMB community and a large-scale Universitywide commencement ceremony at Royal Farms Arena. Let’s not forget Party in the Park, featuring music, food, and families hamming it up for pictures with the Oriole Bird at Plaza Park.
But COVID-19 changed all that this year. With large-scale gatherings prohibited in Maryland because of the pandemic, school administrators had to create a whole new page in the playbook, or rather, in the graduation program.
“Under normal circumstances, I would not be here alone, I would be here with you," said UMB Interim President Bruce E. Jarrell, MD, FACS, dressed in full regalia as he delivered a virtual commencement address inside historic Davidge Hall, the founding building of what eventually became UMB. “But we all know this is not a normal year and these are not normal circumstances. Since our founding, graduates from UMB have worked to serve the public good and improve the human condition, and I know that each of you now understands the importance of that mission, especially now amidst this global pandemic.
“It is certainly unfair that you are not walking across the stage today to receive your diploma,” he continued. “Nevertheless, our community and the world are no less thankful for your dedication and scholarship in your field of study. We could not be more ready for you to get started. The challenges that we face as a community and as a country are daunting, but I am confident that each of you will face them head-on with confidence in your ability and an eye toward your future. Because, you see, it is not walking across a stage that defines you or your career, it’s how you start the next chapter. Yes, you haven’t been able to celebrate this year, but your studies have prepared you to go forth and write the next chapter.”
(Watch Dr. Jarrell’s speech here.)
Even in the digital world, the day was full of student remarkers, keynote speeches, national anthem singers, and other hallmarks of happier days.
Graduates were honored in various ways. (View video below.) Among the festivities:
A virtual celebration event went live on May 15 on a website featuring individual pages for each graduate. Dean Richard P. Barth, PhD, MSW, offered congratulatory remarks in what was his last convocation address because of his upcoming retirement as dean after 14 years.
The school plans to honor the accomplishments and achievements of the graduating class through a digital yearbook that will be launched May 20 and posted with a celebratory video on this website.
The school premiered a celebration video May 15.
With the Doctoral Hooding Ceremony 2020 canceled, plans are in the works for several web-celebrations for summer 2019, fall 2019, and spring 2020 graduates.
“Now more than ever, your answer to the call to be among the courageous and committed physicians practicing medicine today is exactly what the world needs,” School of Medicine Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, who’s also the UMB executive vice president of medical affairs and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor, said in a celebration video that went live on May 14. The school hosted a Zoom event for medical students to gather and watch the ceremony. Simultaneously, the pre-recorded ceremony was made available on the school’s graduation website for faculty, staff, guests, and all other viewers in cyberspace.
On May 14, School of Nursing graduates, their guests, faculty, and staff joined in a virtual conferral of degrees ceremony, including a photo montage of May graduates, an address by Dean Jane M. Kirschling, PhD, RN, FAAN, the conferral of degrees by Jarrell, and a recitation of the Nursing Oath.
The School of Pharmacy recognized the accomplishments of its PharmD, PhD, and MS graduates in a celebration video that was shared via email, the school’s website, and social media channels on May 15. In addition, the school launched a graduation website, recognizing each graduate by name and degree program and featuring photos and notes of thanks submitted by graduates.