Behind the scenes at Michener’s 2020 virtual convocation

Like most milestones in 2020, Michener’s convocation was certainly one to remember. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the public health guidelines around physical distancing, this year’s convocation was a virtual event that went live on October 17 with over 900 people tuning in. Despite the challenges of putting together a digital event of this size – and a first for Michener – the event gave graduates the recognition they deserved.

To maintain the celebratory spirit and to honour the 2020 grads, many of whom have been working on the frontlines and caring for patients with COVID-19 since March, the virtual ceremony included pre-recorded speeches from Michener and UHN leadership, as well as personal video messages from faculty, alumni and fellow grads.

“We were concerned that a virtual ceremony would miss the intimate tone of an in-person event, so we did what we could to add a special touch from faculty and the people who grads connected with throughout their program,” says Heather Wood, Administrative Assistant, Convocation.

Ray Nielsen, Director of the Student Success Network and Clinical Education, took it one step further to connect with grads. Ray and his team put together packages for each grad with Michener swag and a personal message from leadership. The team shipped the packages directly to grads’ doorsteps.

“We wanted to acknowledge that although we couldn’t celebrate in person, this day is still all about the grads,” says Ray. “We’re all so far away from each other now – some grads are across the country – and I think they needed this extra recognition.”

The Michener convocation team recruited a videographer to film the speeches and edit the footage so that the online event had a seamless and professional feel. But it was up to the convocation team to work closely with the videographer, coordinate the video footage and make sure the content was appropriate for a virtual audience, all while ensuring the event was a special day for grads.

“We needed to have a different vision with a virtual event,” says Heather. “We watched so many other virtual convocations online to get a sense of how to do this, but every school did something different. There was no standard because everyone had to pivot quickly.”

For the faculty who participated in the virtual ceremony, it was an opportunity to speak to grads the way they’re used to: natural, relaxed and without the formalities of a ceremony.

Alan Joson, Michener’s Graphic Designer who worked closely with the professional videographer on the event footage, was happy to see faculty showing their creative side in the video messages.

“I loved working with the faculty on their videos because it was the perfect way to personalize the event, and it brought out their creative side,” says Alan. “They put so much thought into it.”

In the end, some faculty recorded messages from their backyards while others were in their offices. Some leadership speeches were more formal while others were easy-going. And despite the hiccups along the way (including technical difficulties on the morning of the event), the message throughout the virtual convocation ceremony was always consistent: we are so proud of Michener’s class of 2020.

Michener’s 2020 convocation planning team included Ray Nielsen, Heather Wood, Alan Joson, Christine Davidson and Cathy Carson.