5/14/2020 Purdue President Mitch Daniels, virtual commencement

Purdue President Mitch Daniels addresses an empty Elliott Hall of Music for the Spring 2020 Commencement virtual ceremony.

Graduates can now access their virtual commencement at any time they want to celebrate their new ability to walk under the Bell Tower — but what should they know before logging on?

When and where can students access virtual commencement?

Anyone can now access any commencement video on Purdue’s Commencement 2020 webpage. Like a “normal” commencement, the ceremonies are broken up into six divisions between the colleges and specific programs. Graduates were also sent a congratulatory email and “commencement in a box” containing a link to the webpage.

How long do students have access to their ceremony?

There isn’t a specified date yet for when the videos will be removed, according to Chris Pass, senior assistant registrar for academic records, commencement and graduation.

“The videos will be up and available until they no longer are needed,” Pass said in an email. “When we prepare for video streaming for the subsequent term, the links will be moved to another page on our website.

What (spoiler alert) happens during commencement this year?

On their specific division webpage, graduates will find two videos. One is a “first-person walkthrough” of the march from the Purdue Armory to Hovde Hall of Administration, with traditional graduation music playing in the background. While watching the video, users can swivel their mice for a “360 experience” to watch their surroundings as they take the traditional walk around campus up the stairs of Hovde.

The second video comprises the main commencement package. Purdue President Mitch Daniels begins the ceremony with a brief introduction, followed by a video of last year’s commencement performance from Purdue Bands & Orchestras and invocation by Fr. Patrick Baikauskas of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Daniels proceeds to give his commencement address, albeit to an empty Elliott Hall of Music, and the reading of graduate names begins. The names are read and presented on the screen for viewers to watch along.

Daniels congratulates graduates and directs viewers to find recipients of special awards further on their division webpages.

The Purdue Varsity Glee Club performs the Purdue Hymn in a recorded video. The commencement ends with a student speaker giving a short speech, a last performance by Bands & Orchestras and words from Baikauskas and Daniels.

Can graduates keep their rented caps and gowns for future in-person commencements?

Purdue’s FAQ page says if graduates “choose to rent a cap and gown for the May 2020 virtual commencement ceremony and are also returning to campus to participate in the August ceremony, (they) may keep (their) cap and gown until Aug. 10.”

Are there any other celebratory traditions available for students?

Also available on the general Commencement 2020 webpage are digital downloads for graduates: posters, mortar board art, Purdue GIFs, yard signs and more.

The University also has additional videos from various Purdue groups offering their congratulations to students. The Purdue Alumni Association, Bruce “The Piano Man” Barker, representatives from Student Life and the dean of every college congratulate students in video form.

If I take part in virtual commencement, can I still walk in a later, in-person ceremony?

Purdue’s commencement FAQ page notes that graduates “are welcome to participate in the May 2020 virtual ceremony and then return to campus for any future summer or winter ceremony.”

Students interested in walking in a future ceremony can find more information on Purdue’s returnee webpage.

How did student responders record their speeches?

Division III student responder Jordyn Whaley from Purdue’s School of Nursing said she went into Elliott to give her speech and get recorded for the virtual commencement.

“The media team had everything set up as if it was regular commencement,” Whaley said in an email. “We were able to maintain social distancing while I gave the speech at the podium. It was a really special opportunity even though it wasn't the regular commencement.

“I was thankful that Purdue made the effort to make the experience unique but also meaningful — not only for me but for the entire graduating class.”

Whaley said she appreciated the thought and manpower Purdue put into hosting the virtual commencement, and that she thinks the effort shows how much the University cares about the student experience.

“There would have been (many) easier ways to pull it off,” she said, “but they cared enough to give a truly memorable commencement.”

What is Lavender Graduation, and is it still happening?

Beyond Purdue’s main commencement, other celebratory traditions have adapted to changing circumstances to keep students engaged with their on-campus community. For example, the annual Lavender Graduation celebrates LGBTQ and ally students and their achievements and experiences at Purdue.

Lowell Kane, director of student engagement and belonging and director of the LGBTQ Center, explained in an email what normally happens during Lavender Graduation, and what students are doing now.

“All students are welcome to participate,” Kane said. “Traditionally, we celebrate graduates during a beautiful ceremony where we award Lavender Graduation certificates signed by the LGBTQ Center as well as the vice provost for diversity and inclusion, students receive gold stoles with rainbow ends, and we distribute several awards for service within the community during the year. Many students who participate have a connection to the LGBTQ Center and/or the academic minor in LGBTQ studies, but it is not a requirement.”

He said that for the class of 2020, Lavender Graduation will celebrate graduates receiving 37 bachelor’s degrees, two master’s degrees and seven doctoral degrees.

“Due to physical distancing, the LGBTQ Center team had to adapt our celebration of the Historic Lavender Graduation Class of 2020 and develop an alternative format to honor this amazing cohort of students,” Kane said. “This is being achieved through the creation of a multimedia project in which staff, faculty, family, friends, and peers can participate by submitting notes, a photo, artwork, and/or brief video messages of congratulations, advice, words of encouragement, and shout-outs to the Lavender Graduation Class of 2020.

“We will publish the content, including photos and messages from our 46 graduates, as a yearbook-style digital publication for the graduating class and to be shared with the public during the week of Purdue’s graduation.”

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