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Graduation Ceremonies in COVID-19: Allan Hancock College

Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, California took a more mobile approach to their graduation ceremony on September 8th, 2020.

The College invited graduates to attend a drive-thru commencement hosted on campus. Graduates arrived in their car with their chosen family and guests, and then approached the stage when it was their turn. When the car arrived at a designated location, the graduate exited and proceeded to the stage, while the car pulled up in front of the stage to observe the graduate’s moment of recognition. The cars were only 15-20 feet away from the stage so they could probably observe and celebrate their graduate’s accomplishment. The graduates would cross the stage and pose for a picture in masks with the diploma presenter. After they received their diploma, the graduate walked off the stage to a second photographic opportunity in the natural surroundings, using an Allan Hancock flag and the college campus as the background. Once the photographers captured the final portrait, the graduate returned to the vehicle and exited campus.

To read more about how the ceremony was executed and thoughts from the school staff, see the article here.

Takeaway #1: Logistics

When planning a drive-thru commencement, one of the highest priorities is to establish the flow of traffic. How will the participants enter campus? How will they check in? How will they park and then exit campus after receiving their diploma?

The College designed a flow map  to allow easy entry to campus, a convenient check-in, and plenty of room to queue up graduates as they waited their turn. Next, the university set up a scheduled time for graduates to arrive on campus and join the procession. They also hosted 2 “rehearsals” via Zoom to ensure the graduates understood how the ceremony was going to be executed.

The University staff handled all of the day-of logistics. The staff directed the cars through all points of the “procession” and maintained a structured line flow. With the staggered nature of the schedule, cars and graduates flowed through the ceremony as scheduled.

Takeaway #2: The Ceremony

Commencement speeches were a combination of streamed live from location and pre-recorded segments, all available by livestream on AH’s website. When it came time for the diploma presentation, each graduate was featured on stage as they crossed and received their diploma. At the closing of the ceremonies, remarks were made from the podium and the ceremony was completed.

Takeaway #3: Generating Excitement

Allan Hancock had many incentives to help encourage the student body’s engagement. They hosted a Grad Cap decoration contest, encouraged decorating the student’s cars for the “processional” and advertised the livestream ahead of time so friends and family who could not attend the ceremony would be able to view their graduates crossing the stage.

While this ceremony was certainly not what the College had originally planned, they successfully crafted an event to allow each graduate to be individually recognized before their loved ones – the defining priority of the College’s intent. By developing a comprehensive plan and maintaining close coordination with graduates and vendors alike, Allan Hancock College accomplished a highly successful and creative celebration of their graduates.   We commend their administration, and it was our pleasure to contribute to this memorable event.

Topics: News New & Noteworthy Best Practices COVID