Sessions
(All times are Eastern Time)

Monday, February 14

8:00 am
4:00 pm

Corporate Showcase Open
In-Person Only

7:30 am
8:45 am

Networking Breakfast
In-Person Only

9:00 am
9:35 am

Opening Ceremony
In-Person Only; Recorded for On-Demand Viewing

9:45 am
10:45 am

Regional Meetings
In-Person Only

10:45 am
11:15 am

Break

11:00 am
11:30 am

Host Welcome
Virtual Only

11:30 am
12:30 pm

Opening Keynote: The Ritual Effect
Hybrid

Rituals are ubiquitous in our personal lives—enacted before performances or during family holidays and in our interactions with firms—from sports fans doing the “wave” to customers being served wine after an elaborate uncorking. Our research has documented the benefits of rituals in domains ranging from grief recovery to romantic relationships to team performance to singing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” COVID-19 disrupted nearly every aspect of ritual in our lives—from funerals to celebrating holidays—but also encouraged people to create new rituals, including health care professionals trying to leave work behind and parents trying to help their children adapt to life in a pandemic.

12:30 pm
1:30 pm

Networking Lunch
In-Person Only

1:45 pm
2:45 pm

Session 1
(These sessions fill the requirements for Year 1 of the Certificate Program.)

Who, What, Where, When, Why, How…Commencement in a Pandemic
Hybrid; Recorded for On-Demand Viewing

Learn how the University of Vermont (UVM) adapted to offer 10 hybrid ceremonies in two days. This session will discuss how UVM undertook planning in a new venue, working with a new administration, planning under Vermont’s state of emergency COVID-19 restrictions, and working with human resources and labor unions to staff the event. Learn about the challenges the planners had to face in working with new vendors, new safety guidance, fighter jets, and a heat wave!

1:45 pm
2:45 pm

Session 2
(These sessions fill the requirements for Year 2 of the Certificate Program.)

Planning for the Pivot: Being Prepared for Anything
Hybrid; Recorded for On-Demand Viewing

Over the past two years, many colleges and universities have had to adapt to government regulations and implement new technology for planning commencements in the age of COVID-19. In this session, you will be guided through Fordham University’s scenario planning for 19 ceremonies as New York State’s regulations constantly changed and what happened when new technology fell short of its promises.

1:45 pm
2:45 pm

Session 3

Necessity Is the Mother of Invention: Lessons in Strategic Hybrid Academic Ceremonies
In-Person Only; Recorded for On-Demand Viewing

Plato is credited with saying “necessity is the mother of invention.” Event organizers in an evolving pandemic feel this in our core.  COVID-19 transformed the world we live in, halting traditional major cultural events and festivals throughout 2020. From the Tokyo Olympic Games to our honored university traditions, all major event gatherings have had to be reinvented, postponed, downscaled, or cancelled altogether. After a year of fluctuating pandemic gathering restrictions, university students and their supporters nationwide voiced the need to gather and experience collective celebrations of academic milestone achievements. Federal, state, and university restrictions changed greatly from gathering to gathering, sometimes at a moment’s notice. UNR Med’s intimate class size made pivoting to hybrid ceremonies manageable with modest resources. Join this virtual session to gain insight on what worked well and what didn’t work so well with scalable insights.

2:45 pm
3:15 pm

Break

3:15 pm
4:15 pm

Session 1
(These sessions fill the requirements for Year 1 of the Certificate Program.)

Evolution to a Virtual Commencement: What a Difference a Year Makes
Hybrid; Recorded for On-Demand Viewing

This case study will examine how New York University’s Office of University Events evolved its virtual recognition of its graduates from 2020 to 2021. Challenged to keep its ceremony virtual in the midst of in-person ceremonies at other universities in spring 2021, NYU sought to better engage graduates and their families through a compelling and meaningful online ceremony, as well as through a range of activities and memorabilia. The session will cover how NYU adapted its traditional ceremony for a broadcast, while integrating interactive online components. It will also feature the other elements in NYU’s graduation experience—some new and some reimagined—from a gift box to academic attire to social media engagement. With lessons learned from two years of virtual celebrations, the university is exploring how to continue to engage these now-alumni as it moves forward with their rescheduled in-person commencement in 2022.

3:15 pm
4:15 pm

Session 2
(These sessions fill the requirements for Year 2 of the Certificate Program.)

From DIY to OH MY: Utilizing Creative Thinking To Produce Blockbuster Events on a Shoestring Budget
Hybrid; Recorded for On-Demand Viewing

Do you ever feel like you’re in a time loop, doing the same thing year after year for your events? Join Kelly and Jess as they take you through their process of collaborating across functional teams to apply a fresh perspective to traditional events and hear how they maximize a virtually nonexistent budget by taking the DIY route on various tasks. Learn how to apply design principles to your marketing and add small touches that make a big impact.

3:15 pm
4:15 pm

Session 3

Committing to Inclusive Excellence in Convocation Design: A Case Study From Dalhousie University
In-Person Only; Recorded for On-Demand Viewing

As Dalhousie enters its third century, the notion of inclusive excellence infuses the university’s mission, value statements, and institutional priorities, including convocation. Learn about Dalhousie’s efforts to design convocation ceremonies that acknowledge the institution’s history and traditions, while emphasizing and celebrating its contemporary diversity and values. We will share promising practices and lessons learned with particular emphasis on a major, community-wide project to decommission and re-design Dalhousie’s ceremonial mace—a process through which a new and inspiring symbol of place and belonging was developed and a new approach and ethos for convocation was solidified.

4:30 pm
5:30 pm

Roundtable Discussions
Virtual Only

6:00 pm
8:00 pm

Opening Reception
In-Person Only

Tuesday, February 15

7:30 am
4:00 pm

Corporate Showcase Open
In-Person Only

7:30 am
9:20 am

Breakfast and Roundtable Discussions
In-Person Only

9:30 am
12:00 pm

Campus Visit
Hybrid

12:00 pm
1:15 pm

Lunch and Roundtable Discussions
In-Person Only

1:00 pm
1:30 pm

Host Welcome
Virtual Only

1:30 pm
2:30 pm

General Session: Embodying Diversity and Inclusion in Ceremonies Through Music
Hybrid

American college and university campuses have diversified significantly in the last three decades: students come from all over the world to our institutions of higher education, and many places, like the University of Pennsylvania, have worked hard to increase access for those Americans historically excluded from higher education. We have worked hard to be inclusive as students enter our campuses, but can we use music as a medium to connect to these students at official ceremonies? Can music celebrate the full range of student diversity? Of country of origin, home language, culture, and sexual orientation, for example? 

2:30 pm
3:00 pm

Break

3:00 pm
4:00 pm

Session 1
(These sessions fill the requirements for Year 1 of the Certificate Program.)

Faculty Insights About Use of Academic Regalia at a Land-Grant University
Hybrid; Recorded for On-Demand Viewing

Each year, the use of academic regalia at U.S. universities plays a prominent role at commencement events. Currently, the Academic Costume Code – American Council on Education (ACC-ACE) serves as the governing body for academic regalia at universities around the country. Though faculty play a prominent role in the visual presence at commencement exercises, little is known about faculty attitudes and beliefs regarding the use of academic regalia during commencement events. Results from a recent research study indicated that over 88 percent of faculty respondents positively supported the continued use of academic regalia at commencement events. Descriptive results also suggest a similar trend in attitudes and beliefs about the continued use of academic regalia at commencement exercises. This research provides support for a continued understanding of attitudes and beliefs about the use of academic regalia and may help support NAACO member organizations to align future commencement events to changing institutional goals.

3:00 pm
4:00 pm

Session 2
(These sessions fill the requirements for Year 2 of the Certificate Program.)

New Event Behaviors in a Post-Pandemic Society
Hybrid; Recorded for On-Demand Viewing

Never in our lifetimes have we seen one factor affect the world in such a dramatic way as we have over the last two years. 

Six months into the epidemic, crowd managers warned that they were less confident than ever in predicting likely crowd behaviors when events returned than previously, and some warned of likely changes to behavior at events. 

This session will examine if they were right to worry and where we now stand in predicting crowd demographics and psychology in the “new world.”

3:00 pm
4:00 pm

Session 3

Celebrating a Double Ceremony for 2020 and 2021 Graduates in the NFL’s Newest Stadium
In-Person Only; Recorded for On-Demand Viewing

Loyola Marymount University’s undergraduate, graduate, and law school classes of 2020 and 2021 were invited to celebrate their graduation all together and in-person at SoFi Stadium on July 31, 2021. In this session, we will outline the process and tasks the Logistics Committee managed in order to create a successful 90-minute celebration with only three months planning time. We will discuss the committee organization and decision-making process, ceremony program changes, ticketing, wayfinding, graduate communication, graduate line-up, college receptions, volunteers, and much, much more. We were also coordinating this in a brand new, nearly unused, state-of-the-art football stadium during the pandemic! Please join us as we share the challenges and successes of this unique ceremony.

4:00 pm
4:30 pm

Break

4:30 pm
5:30 pm

Session 1
(These sessions fill the requirements for Year 1 of the Certificate Program.)

Stage Crossings: Lessons Learned Over 8 Days and 7,000 Grads
Hybrid; Recorded for On-Demand Viewing

In May 2021, when faced with how to offer a commencement experience that was safe for our graduates and their guests, we created a stage crossing experience that offered everything the students said they missed from a traditional ceremony. We invited over 26,000 graduates from multiple graduation cohorts and, ultimately, over 7,000 graduates participated. The stage crossing experience was so well-received that we are looking at ways to incorporate parts of the experience during our in-person graduation weekend in May 2022.

4:30 pm
5:30 pm

Session 2
(These sessions fill the requirements for Year 2 of the Certificate Program.)

nətsəmat iʔ čéynəuəl – One Heart and One Mind Working Together
Hybrid; Recorded for On-Demand Viewing

Following Coast Salish protocol, the Office of Indigenous Academic and Community Engagement and the Ceremonies Office of the University of Victoria hosted the first Welcome to the Territory and Installation of the university’s eighth president, Dr. Kevin Hall. Join Diane Sam and Jeanie Gunn as they use the five W’s (who, what, where, when, and why) to guide you through this process. We will also discuss the importance of working with the local community and relationship building. Please visit https://www.uvic.ca/welcomeceremony to view the event.

4:30 pm
5:30 pm

Session 3

To Be Announced
In-Person Only; Recorded for On-Demand Viewing

7:00 pm
10:00 pm

Night Out
In-Person Only

Wednesday, February 16

7:30 am
2:00 pm

Corporate Showcase Open
In-Person Only

7:30 am
8:30 am

Breakfast and Roundtable Discussions
In-Person Only

8:45 am
9:45 am

Session 1
(These sessions fill the requirements for Year 1 of the Certificate Program.)

Marketing and University Events: A Partnership for Success
Hybrid; Recorded for On-Demand Viewing

Details coming soon.

8:45 am
9:45 am

Session 2
(These sessions fill the requirements for Year 2 of the Certificate Program.)

It’ll Be Something: The Untold Story of How the University of Arizona Held 16 Commencement Ceremonies in 8 Days
Hybrid; Recorded for On-Demand Viewing

While still in stage three of a four-stage campus re-entry plan, the Presidential Events and University Ceremonies Office had to find a solution for the University of Arizona class of 2021 graduates well before the spring 2021 semester started. Not to mention the fact that the University of Arizona would become a vaccination site in the middle of campus while forming these graduation plans, the team of nine immediately set in motion a series of meetings, site visits, and collaborations across campus. What would ultimately come to fruition would be the production of 16 combined commencement ceremonies with college convocations to be held over the course of eight consecutive days, giving the graduates the recognition they earned and deserved.

8:45 am
9:45 am

Session 3

From Pivot to Pirouette: Moving From Virtual Back to In-Person Graduation Ceremonies
In-Person Only; Recorded for On-Demand Viewing

For the past year and a half, we pivoted to virtual events due to the pandemic. We connected from homes, reimagined events, and engaged our communities as creatively as we could online. Most of us eagerly awaited the day that we could once again gather and meet in-person. So, early last summer, when the situation to returning to large scale gatherings was optimistic, we at Simon Fraser University were excited to be able to offer an in-person convocation to our graduates. Scenarios and safety measures were developed, and units across the university began preparations for the first large-scale events on campus in two years. From October 4–8, eight in-person and virtual convocation ceremonies were produced for SFU’s 2,100+ fall graduates and their guests.

Join this session to learn about the new health and safety protocols implemented, the resources needed to deliver both in-person and enhanced online ceremonies, the response from the graduates, guests, recent alumni (who have not yet had an in-person ceremony), and the SFU community, and how we overcame the challenges involved with returning to campus.

10:00 am
10:45 am

Membership Meeting
In-Person Only; Recorded for On-Demand Viewing

10:45 am
11:15 am

Break

10:45 am
11:15 am

Host Welcome
Virtual Only

11:15 am
12:15 pm

Session 1
(These sessions fill the requirements for Year 1 of the Certificate Program.)

From the Mountains to the Sea: Comparing Commencement Practices Across Two UNC Campuses
Hybrid; Recorded for On-Demand Viewing

The phrase “different landscapes” doesn’t only apply to their geographical locations.

In this presentation, commencement specialists from Western Carolina University, located in the western mountains of North Carolina, and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, located on the eastern coast, will discuss similarities and differences in their commencement and degree conferral processes from the point of application submission to final checks and diploma fulfillment.

Topics will include website structure, communications with graduates, dates and deadlines, working with in-house and outsourced vendors, and day-of-ceremony procedures. Presenters will also compare having an on-site venue with managing commencement ceremonies at another location. Attendees will have time to ask questions and will leave with resources to evaluate practices at their own institutions and identify areas for growth.

11:15 am
12:15 pm

Session 2
(These sessions fill the requirements for Year 2 of the Certificate Program.)

Diversity and Access in Commencement
Hybrid; Recorded for On-Demand Viewing

Details coming soon.

11:15 am
12:15 pm

Session 3

The Commencement Experience vs. The Commencement Ceremony: Navigating In-Person Commencement During COVID
In-Person Only; Recorded for On-Demand Viewing

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” –Walt Disney

Join us for this presentation to learn how the university events team of two professional staff members at the University of North Georgia took on what seemed like the impossible when charged with the task of continuing to execute in-person commencement ceremonies throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Wikipedia, students have been graduating and taking part in some sort of ceremonious tradition since the twelfth century. Can you imagine being charged with changing arguably the most traditional ceremony that occurs on a college campus in the south? Well, we were, and we lived to tell the story about it, too. Come join us to learn more about how we did it and why we did it.

12:30 pm
1:30 pm

Lunch and Roundtable Discussions
In-Person Only

1:45 pm
2:45 pm

Closing Keynote
Hybrid

2:45 pm
3:30 pm

Closing Ceremony
Hybrid

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