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COVID-19: University of Northern B.C. moves to virtual grad celebration

The College of New Caledonia and Thompson Rivers University have cancelled their events
The College of New Caledonia (CNC) Quesnel Campus celebrates Convocation in 2019. This year, due to COVID-19, CNC has cancelled its June Convocation, while the University of Northern British Columbia has announced its Convocation will be a virtual ceremony. (File photo)

Post-secondary institutions are modifying their plans for recognizing the Class of 2020 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) announced April 8 that it will celebrate its Class of 2020 in a virtual ceremony on June 26.

The decision was made as the university continues to follow strict provincial, federal and international measures, including disallowing mass gatherings and requiring physical distancing to prevent the spread of the virus, according to a news release from UNBC.

All UNBC graduates, including those who attend campuses in Prince George, Terrace, Wilp Wilxo’oskwhl Nisga’a and Quesnel, can participate in the virtual ceremony.

“Ensuring the health and safety of our graduating class, their families and friends, our faculty and staff is our No. 1 priority,” UNBC interim president Dr. Geoffrey Payne said in the release. “It is also important that we celebrate and recognize the achievements of our graduates. This virtual ceremony allows us to do that without any health risk.”

A virtual ceremony allows the university to stay engaged with the graduating class by personalizing a graduation message, video or photo, according to the release. All graduates will have their name and degree called, even if they do not upload personal content.

Regardless of the modifications being made to the Convocation event, students will still graduate and receive their parchment.

“We understand this is a difficult and challenging time for all of our students, especially those in the Class of 2020 as they complete their final semester in alternate delivery modes,” said Payne. “We appreciate their understanding and patience to adapt in this rapidly evolving situation. All of us at UNBC congratulate them on their achievements.”

At UNBC, all classes are running with alternate modes of delivery. Final exams will not be conduced in a face-to-face format, but all final exams will be held on the date they were originally scheduled.

More information about UNBC’s 2020 Convocation can be found at

The College of New Caledonia (CNC) announced on April 2 that it is cancelling its 2020 Convocation ceremonies.

“Reaching a milestone like Convocation is a tremendous achievement,” CNC president and CEO Dennis Johnson wrote in an update on the college’s website. “I know this success comes from years of hard work, perseverance, commitment and determination. Over the past 50 years, CNC staff have taken great pride in celebrating with many students during annual Convocation ceremonies, and it is regrettable that Quesnel and Prince George 2020 ceremonies will be cancelled.”

Johnson says thoughtful consideration was given to the current global coronavirus pandemic, and the direction from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prohibiting gatherings of people in excess of 50 people until May 30, which could also be extended into June.

“The decision to cancel was not taken lightly; safety was a key factor in the decision-making process,” said Johnson. “I know this is a disappointment for you and I do understand that this is a special time for you and your family members. I do want you to know that we are proud of you and your accomplishments and it is difficult for us not to have the opportunity to celebrate with you and recognize your success in our annual ceremonies.”

In terms of the current term, Johnson says for the remainder of this term, students will complete their classes using alternative delivery, and most services will be provided through a combination of online and telephone methods. Exams will proceed April 16-24 as scheduled, using alternative delivery.

Thompson Rivers University (TRU) has also cancelled its Convocation and Commencement ceremonies that would normally take place in the spring.

“That said, it is perhaps more important now than ever to recognize and celebrate the wonderful accomplishments of all our graduates,” TRU president and vice-chancellor Brett Fairbairn wrote in a March 31 update on the university’s website. “We plan to do just that, as we always do — with passion and joy — but in a slightly different way this year. Every graduate will receive their parchment and a commemorative booklet featuring graduate names from every school and faculty, inspiring messages from valedictorians, Chancellor Nathan Matthew and myself as president, acknowledgements of the distinguished recipients of TRU honorary doctorates, and images and information befitting of this milestone. These will be sent in the mail. We are also exploring the possibility of creating a virtual space where graduates, family and friends, as well as TRU faculty and leaders, can share congratulatory messages, photos, videos and well wishes.”

READ MORE: COVID-19: Classes resume at College of New Caledonia using alternate delivery

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