'Maybe we can bring a little convocation to them': U of G takes graduation on the road for second straight year
GUELPH -- Staff at the University of Guelph are hoping to still celebrate with their graduates this year by taking convocation on the road after the current stay-at-home order expires.
Due to pandemic restrictions, large gatherings are not allowed in Ontario. This includes graduation ceremonies.
“We thought if the students can’t come to us, maybe we can bring a little convocation to them," Ceremonies and Events Manager Claire Alexander said.
The university’s "Grad Tour" started last year allowing grads to get a professional photo taken while wearing a regatta gown, cap and holding their degree. The experience was a pivot from the traditional large ceremony to more of a one-on-one experience. The tour included an official backdrop and photo props including large letters spelling out “U of G.”
Mya Leacock participated last year.
“I didn't notice how important getting a photo of you in a gown and holding your degree would be until I did it,” Leacock said.
Due to a limited amount of spots available, Leacock brought a friend who forgot to sign up. She took photos with her friend and classmate, a sacrifice that meant her mother watched proudly from a distance.
“You're only supposed to bring one parent with you and I was like, 'oh my goodness what am I going to do?' So my mom ended up coming, but was in the parking lot far away.”
Alexander said some of the graduates who took part last year brought one parent as their single guest to have a photo with. Others brought a sibling, a friend, or a spouse and some even brought their dogs.
Last year’s pilot project only happened on campus in Guelph. This year the Grad Tour plans to expand. Alexander says a small team will be taking photos on campus but are also planning to travel to London, Burlington, Toronto and Barrie once provincial regulations allow.
Alexander says these cities were chosen for their higher density of University of Guelph graduates.
Matt Kenney, who also graduated last year missed the opportunity to throw his cap in the air with all of his classmates. Instead, he took advantage of the Grad Tour while it was in Guelph.
“After all the hard work I put in throughout the years, I think being able to have this ceremony whether it be virtual or in person, I think it's very special to us,” Kenney said.
Alexander said protocols to ensure safety will be strict.
“They will bring their regalia with them. We've giving them a few different options. They can rent it or they can buy it for their own use. For whatever pictures they want to take."
Besides the professional photo, graduates and their guests are encouraged to take their own cell phone pictures as well.
“Just being able to share that moment with graduates, it was incredible," Alexander said about last year’s event.
“Just having that little day about me, was great,” Leacock said.
Graduates will need to register online to book their Grad Tour spot in their select city.
Staff at the university say the tour was originally planned for spring, but has been postponed to the summer due to the current stay-at-home order. Those dates are also subject to change pending further restrictions.