Convocation is like New Year’s Eve on the Portage College calendar. The halls are bustling with activity, the gym is adorned with decorations and flowers, everyone is dressed to the nines, and there’s a palpable feeling of anticipation and excitement in the air. This year, thanks to COVID-19, the gym was closed and the hallways were quiet, but that didn’t mean that the Class of 2020 didn’t celebrate in style.
On June 5 at 7 P.M., busy halls were replaced with smiles on computer screens across the world. Over 305 people participated in Portage’s first ever virtual convocation, including one student from as far away as India. The event included live and pre-recorded videos of speakers and special guests Dr. James Makokis and Anthony Johnson, winners of Amazing Race Canada.
“We weren’t sure if it would go well or not. This was all very new to us,” said Jaime Davies, Corporate Communications Manager. “We knew cancelling Convocation altogether would have been another disappointment for our students after all that they have endured this year. We truly wanted to recognize their achievements in a special way.”
Event organizers were able to set up the chat, video and voice functions for certain parts of the ceremony, allowing students, staff and faculty to engage with each other throughout the event and to properly acknowledge and celebrate the graduates’ amazing accomplishments.
Behind the Scenes of Virtual Convocation
“There were a few bloopers, such as guests popping in without muting their computer microphones, but that just added to the charm of the evening,” noted Davies.
“We only muted everyone when the audio was screeching or when our speakers were presenting,” she said.
The first four seconds of the event recording, available on the Portage College website, are a perfect illustration of the tone and warmth of the get-together.
“Hey Jordan. Can you see me!?”
“Ha ha. Yes. How are you?”
Jordan attended the Culinary Arts program in St. Paul and was tuning in with his fellow classmate Hamank from India, where 7 P.M. Mountain Time was 6:30 A.M. his time. Hamank was all decked out in his suit and cap along with balloons on the wall behind him.
Weeks before the event, the College sent out convocation packages that included a grad cap, LED balloons or swag, and an eagle feather for the students who would have participated in the Honour Ceremony during a typical convocation celebration.
Convocation Package shared by Graduating Student Karen Clements
“Although it was a lot of work to build the boxes and ship them to the students, it was so rewarding to see students dressed up with their caps along with decorations behind them,” said Davies.
The main highlight of the event was when students turned their tassels to officially symbolize their graduation and then synchronized tossing their caps in the air. The event finale was scheduled to stop after the year in review video, but organizers decided to replay the list of graduate names and keep the meeting open for 40 more minutes so the celebration could continue. Graduates took full advantage of the extra time to congratulate each other and to catch up on what their classmates were up to.
Virtual Cap Toss
“Listening in to the excitement and watching the participants enjoying themselves was a wonderful way to put a bow on the 2019-2020 year,” said Davies. “We’re so glad that so many of our students and their families participated in the ceremony. We’re so proud of them and wish them all the best as they start the next chapter of their lives.”
The Virtual Convocation webpage is still available to anyone who wishes to go through all the elements and still continue to celebrate their accomplishments.
Jaime Davies, Corporate Communications Manager
780-623-5581 or email