By Heidi Lee
For Adriana Valencia, graduating during the COVID-19 pandemic not only meant convocation was cancelled—it also meant not getting an opportunity to showcase her final-year thesis project at the end-of-year art show.
“At the time, I felt a little bit robbed that we didn’t have what the previous graduates have,” said Valencia, who is a 2021 new media graduate and now a freelance graphic designer.
She said she was going to graduate back in 2020, but decided to delay her graduation since she had a number of elective courses to complete. “In my head, I thought maybe we will be able to have the art show and a convocation in 2021,” she said.
After Valencia witnessed her friends, who graduated in 2019, have commencement and graduation photos taken, she said she felt like she had missed out.
However, Valencia and other Ryerson alumni who missed out on their in-person ceremonies due to the pandemic will be invited back to cross the stage this June.
On March 22, Ryerson announced that in-person ceremonies will be held from June 13 to 24 at the Mattamy Athletic Centre for the class of 2022 as well as graduates from 2020 and 2021.
An invitation will be sent out in April for students to register for convocation. The invitation will also include venue capacity, health and safety protocols, the number of permitted guests and other details.
In an interview with The Eyeopener on March 28, Ryerson president Mohamed Lacahemi said the school is expected to hold 23 convocation ceremonies over 10 days.
He added that faculties and programs are grouped together in each ceremony as appropriate.
“Based on survey data, we are confident that we have planned an appropriate number of ceremonies for our 2020 and 2021 grads,” he said. “Attending convocation is a rite of passage and the university community is looking forward to sharing this mark of academic success with graduates and their families and friends.”
“I’m happy that the school didn’t forget us”
Valencia said she is happy “to have some semblance of normalcy with an in-person graduation ceremony.”
“I also miss being on campus,” she said. “I’m happy that the school didn’t forget us.” Valencia added she hopes her mom can also attend the ceremony with her.
As a new grad during the pandemic, Valencia said she was unmotivated to finish her final year. Unsure about her path at the time, she kept herself busy and built her design portfolio.
“Before the pandemic, I used to compare myself to my classmates, because I felt like they had their heads on their shoulders,” she said. “But now I have a better idea on where I’m going…I feel more sure about the future career-wise.”
When asked about what safety protocols she thinks the school should implement, Valencia said she would like social distancing and a masking mandate to be in place.
Ryerson announced on March 28 that the university will suspend masking and vaccination mandates on May 1.
“I know that masks are no longer mandatory, but I’m still going to be wearing my mask for big events like this and we’re still in the pandemic,” she said. “Masks and making sure everything is sanitized would put me a little bit more at ease.”
Sabrina Kauk, a 2021 media production graduate, said she has been having conversations with family and friends about arrangements of an in-person convocation.
“The biggest we’ve talked about it is really just like, how is it going to work?” said Kauk. “We’ve already reached a sixth wave of COVID-19 and the mask mandate has just lifted.”
She said her family has been very careful, in which they continue to wear a mask even though the restriction was lifted.
“We continue to wear them because we don’t think it’s safe to take them off yet, so it’s going to be interesting how it’s going to play out,” said Kauk. “I know they will send out invitations in mid-April, but you can’t really predict what’s happening with COVID.”
“It’s like, you hope to have an event, but it could always be cancelled too,” she said.
“We’ve already reached a sixth wave of COVID-19 and the mask mandate has just lifted”
Kauk said at the beginning of the pandemic, she was somewhat sad because her final year was different than what she had imagined.
“I’m actually relieved that the school had the ceremony online,” said Kauk. “But again, I don’t think it’s the same closure, or it wasn’t like a big finale like you think of when you first start university.”
Conan Chan, a 2020 interior design graduate, said although he wanted a convocation in the past, all the mandates and the quarantining from COVID-19 changed his perspective on “the whole idea of in-person gatherings”
“I thought that it wasn’t very smart to get back into large gatherings just because of traditions,” he said. “Sometimes you have to be able to step back and look at the bigger picture.”
As time went by, the idea of attending an in-person convocation slipped out of Chan’s mind.
“The value of convocation has become less and less for me, especially after I started working,” said Chan. “This is something that is in the past for me and I’m not the kind of person who likes to look back a lot.”
Even though he has no interest in going, Chan said he would definitely attend as a guest to see his friends cross the stage.
“I was a bit sad in the beginning, but looking back now, I’m glad I went through those four years of schooling,” said Chan. “Even though I didn’t have a convocation, that didn’t really hinder me too much from pursuing what I want to pursue.”
“I am pretty satisfied with where I am right now.”