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COE departments get creative for commencement

image of students participating in drive in graduation event

The class of 2020 attended their classes online, took exams online, and ultimately ended their time as undergraduates online with virtual commencement ceremonies put on by NC State University on Dec. 4, 2020 and by the College of Engineering’s academic departments.

The Fall 2020 graduates had safe but celebratory sendoffs, as the College’s departments worked hard to make them special for a class that has faced unprecedented challenges in their final year of undergraduate studies due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Anna Owens, who graduated with her B.S. in computer science and is now working on her master’s degree, said the Department of Computer Science publicized the event months in advance and worked with students to get photos and quotes to make a special presentation. Owens was one of two student speakers for the department’s commencement ceremony.

“Since the event was virtual, I was able to share the invitation with family members that live across the country who might not have been able to make it to Raleigh had the event been in person,” she said. “This allowed my family to connect in a way that might not have happened during a ‘regular’ graduation.”

Most of the College’s departments streamed or posted videos of their ceremonies online, so family members and friends could watch.

But for those who lived close to campus, the Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering also put on a drive-in ceremony, which was later shared online.

image of Spencer Matthews speaking during 2020 commencementSpencer Matthews, who graduated with his B.S. in industrial engineering in December, spoke at the event. He will graduate in December 2021 with a master’s degree and hopes to have a more normal ceremony then.

“It was strange talking to cars instead of to people,” he said. “And when you said something worth applause, people were blasting their horns instead of clapping.”

Of course, in 2020 fashion, the ceremony was not without its hiccups. Matthews’ father had been exposed that week to COVID-19 at his dental practice and was avoiding close contact with his family, so he drove in a different car than Matthews’ mother and sister, while Matthews and his girlfriend attended in a third car.

“With everything being so chaotic because of COVID, it was a relief and nice to have some sort of ceremony where we could be recognized,” he said.

Return to contents or download the Spring / Summer 2021 NC State Engineering magazine (PDF, 52.0 MB).

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