How to Plan a Virtual Graduation Celebration Like No Other

As colleges and universities across the U.S. virtually send off the class of 2020, the University of Missouri (Mizzou) went the extra mile by helping families plan virtual celebrations for their newly minted graduates. 

With the ongoing pandemic hindering traditional graduation festivities, the university’s staff was forced to be creative as they brainstormed different ways to honor the big day for students and families. From designing animated graduation-themed social media stickers to publishing popular dining hall recipes, the university was thinking outside of the box when it came to 2020’s virtual celebrations. 

“We are throwing a million ideas on the wall, and now we’re peeling things off that have stuck,” says Kristen Smarr, the deputy chief marketing and communications officer in charge of Mizzou’s virtual graduation ceremonies. “There’s a lot of energy around this. We have a profound desire to honor our students.”

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A Proper Virtual Graduation Lasts 24 Hours

Over a 24-hour period beginning on May 15, Mizzou organized various online ceremonies. The school kicked it off with recorded video greetings from the chancellor and provost before streaming it on the school’s website and social media. 

“There’s nothing that can replace an in-person celebration, but it’s important that our students and their loved ones have an opportunity to celebrate this important moment,” Smarr says. “We want it to be a fun, respectful, energetic and happy 24 hours.” 

As individual schools and colleges within the university organized their own virtual ceremonies, many planned live, interactive events using videoconferencing tools such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and even YouTube. 

Meanwhile, Smarr and her team focused on a daylong social media campaign for the virtual celebration, aggregating video greetings from celebrities and alumni to post throughout the 24-hour period. They also encouraged the graduating class of 6,000 students, as well as their families and friends, to post photos and videos with the hashtag #MizzouMade.

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