The Celebration Begins (Virtually)

Group of NC State graduates“Congratulations!  You’ve done it.  Your persistent hard work has earned you the title of graduate,” Crop and Soil Sciences’ new website reads.  Graduation speeches normally echo in the spring air and are clothed in a sea of waving robes, tassels, and pithy comments on mortarboards.  2020’s NC State graduates are experiencing it a bit differently this year.

Crop and Soil Sciences’ Department Head Jeff Mullahey underscored the university’s desire for graduation recognition, both immediate and future.   “The chancellor strongly believes that a formal, in-person graduation ceremony will be held – when safe to do so.  But our students are finishing now, we didn’t want to miss the chance to celebrate their milestone achievement with them. Earning a degree is a long journey. We are so proud of these graduates and wanted to mark the occasion as best we can, for now.”

Celebrating Success

To commemorate our graduates’ achievement, and to spite the long, strange year, on Saturday at 1pm we released a Celebration of Success website to capture and uplift this poignant moment.  (It’s the time we would normally be cutting the celebratory cake in Williams Hall.)  In this new digital yearbook-style site, our finishing undergrads and graduate students each have their own page on the site to stand proud, herald their accomplishments, and even deliver their own recorded message.  David Crouse, Director of Undergraduate Programs, discovered a format that would work today and going into the future.

“A few weeks ago, the college asked departments to share their ideas for plans to celebrate student success. While other departments were considering live-streamed events, we were concerned about the limited broadband access in the local communities of our students and their families. This is to be a celebration, not a frustration, so I went in search of a solution with rural access in mind. I knew we wanted something that would lay the groundwork for an evolving celebration to be renewed each semester. In the college’s report of departmental plans was Horticultural Science’s idea for a website, and with that, the idea of a dual purposed celebration and alumni database launched.” 

Graduates Get the Last Word

After an unexpected online finish to the spring semester and weeks of isolation and exams, most students were pleased to contribute to the department’s celebration website. Graduate student Theresa Piskackova was wistful but forward-thinking.  

“A lack of graduation ceremony is not taking away my degree and all of the work I have done to achieve it. However, I was really looking forward to this ceremony for my terminal degree, the hooding, and the department ceremony. I am the first Ph.D. in my family and wanted to share this moment with them…  [But] plans are still moving forward, research continues to go on, and I use my degree every day. More importantly, the endpoint is largely symbolic. This isn’t the end of my education, but still the beginning.”

Friends and family are invited to contribute to the celebration website as well.  Each graduate page has an area for comments and well-wishes and a dedicated #CSSC2020 hashtag feeds social media comments directly to the celebration site.

Going On Record

It’s important that the circumstances of the day do not diminish the significance of your accomplishment.

Joining the celebration virtually, the NC State Chancellor, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) leadership, and Crop and Soil Sciences faculty and staff shared their written and recorded messages of encouragement and inspiration.  

CALS Dean Richard Linton said, “You’ve embodied NC State’s ‘Think and Do’ spirit.  And you have made this college and university very proud… It’s important that the circumstances of the day do not diminish the significance of your accomplishment… Today is a big deal – a very big deal… To all of our students, congratulations on this momentous achievement!”

“In whatever direction you go, we wish you the best.  Go with the confidence that you have gained the knowledge you need to succeed and the professional skills necessary to put that knowledge to work,” John Dole, CALS Associate Dean and Director of Academic Programs.  

The Cake is Still Coming

a sheet cake with congratulations graduate writingWe in Crop and Soil Sciences aren’t finished.  The party continues into the future – and hopefully in person. A website isn’t enough to honor the commitment it takes for graduates to finish strong. But it’s a start.  We look forward to clinking glasses and cutting the cake with you in person grads.  Cheers!