UMES holds 2nd 'commencement celebration' online | University of Maryland Eastern Shore Marketing Retarget Pixel

UMES holds 2nd 'commencement celebration' online

  • Seniors who persevered through pandemic disruptions get their moment in the spotlight

    Friday, December 18, 2020

    The University of Maryland Eastern Shore bid farewell to its December Class of 2020 with a 36-minute commencement celebration video in lieu of a traditional ceremony typically held in front of thousands at the William P. Hytche Athletic Center. 

    The global pandemic forced the university to start and end the fall 2020 semester earlier than normal -- and subsequently prevented small-gathering graduation events that were scheduled for Nov. 20. 

    The accelerated spread of COVID-19 in November led elected and public health officials to issue directives that made UMES' strategy to hold intimate, in-person commencements four weeks ago obsolete. 

    The university subsequently dusted off a plan it initially crafted in the spring, when in-person classes were replaced the final seven weeks with students dialing into lectures via digital platforms.  The UMES administration produced an online tribute in May featuring recorded remarks from President Heidi M. Anderson, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan in addition to voluntary testimonial videos from seniors and a robust carousel of campus life photos set to music. 

    The December commencement followed the same script that the university found itself scrambling to assemble in less time.  It nonetheless reflected the joy associated with the rite of passage for some 230 graduates.

    “Congratulations to the class of 2020,” Bryanna Turman of Clinton, Md. said into a cellphone-recorded video. “We did it, despite all that we've gone through.  We were able to make it and graduate.  I wish everybody the best of luck on their future endeavors.” 

    Ashley Nwamara of Hyattsville, wearing her cap and gown, smiled broadly into her camera-phone and declared: “The time is here.  It's the end of an era.  Now on to the next chapter.” 

    Olawoyin Akintelure of Capitol Heights, Md. challenged classmates to “Let's go make UMES proud.” 

    In addition to remarks from Anderson and Hogan, a parade of faculty members offered heartfelt messages, including a handful who are also alumni. 

    Business professor Dr. Bryant Mitchell, class of 1978, invited graduates to “think of yourself as a Hawk for Life.” 

    Dr. Tiara Cornelius, an 2007 alumna and math professor, said “I know from personal experience, once a Hawk, always a Hawk.” 

    Perhaps the most animated testimonial came from Billy Dillon, director of UMES' PGA golf management program, which this cycle had one graduate -- Young Lee of Mt. Airy, Md. 

    “I don't think anyone has gotten as much out of their degree as you,” Dillon said of Lee.  “You served the program very well.  You are the 'total package,' my man.  I want to thank you for the mentorship of the students coming behind you.” 

    Seniors in the November-December graduating class endured mandatory COVID-19 testing, had no intercollegiate athletics and fewer social activities.  They finished the final semester of their undergraduate career following a “hybrid” schedule that meant they sometimes attended classes in person, and other times participated online. 

    When state and University System of Maryland leaders directed public colleges to take more aggressive safety steps to head off the spread of the virus, UMES invited degree candidates to visit during exam week and have their pictures taken in caps and gowns at favorite locales. 

    Students embraced the offer along with submitting their own images that went into the celebration video.  If those pictured were saddened internally by the disruption, the photos revealed an outward exuberance of reaching a milestone. 

    “This is the closing of one chapter of your life and the beginning of another,” said Dr. Marshall F. Stevenson Jr, dean of the School of Social Sciences, Education and The Arts.  “You are ready to make your mark on the world.” 

    Dr. Jennifer Keane-Dawes, a professor of English and Modern Languages, said graduation is akin to the light at the end of a tunnel. “Welcome to the light,” she said. “You are standing in it.” 

    A sentiment echoed by Dr. Richard Warren, a three-time UMES graduate and professor of education: “Welcome to the family.”