Ways to celebrate the class of 2020

The graduates of the class of 2020 may not have the crowd, but they can still feel the pomp and circumstance. It may just take some extra creativity.

“I’m seeing incredible strength and resiliency as seniors navigate the stress around COVID and how it has changed long-term plans,” said Grace Dowd, a licensed clinical social worker and 2014 graduate of the Steve Hicks School of Social Work.

Dowd owns a private practice in downtown Austin and sees several university-aged clients.

“Graduating seniors are coping with a sense of loss around this milestone. However, many graduates are showing their ability to adapt and persevere in difficult times,” Dowd said.

CNBC recently reported that 1,149 colleges and universities have closed, affecting more than 14 million students. At The University of Texas at Austin, classes were moved online for the remainder of the spring and summer semesters. Officials are working to release plans for the fall semester.

Despite these changes, Dowd hopes UT graduates can find ways to make the most of what is still a monumental accomplishment.

“My time at UT was so important to my career development,” she said. “From my scholarship to research opportunities to my internships, the School of Social Work helped shape and guide my path. I feel it is important to remind graduates of the value of their degree and celebrate their hard work.”

When commencement time comes, Dowd added, she hopes these few ideas can help social work graduates and their loved ones celebrate.

  1. Reach out: This gesture might seem small, but it can mean the world. Let a graduate know you are proud of them by acknowledging their hard work. A text message works just fine, and cards, letters, and stationery can feel extra special during times like these.
  2. Car parades: Friends, family, and loved ones can hop in their cars for socially distant and safe drive-by graduation celebrations. Check out this drive-by birthday party for 8-year old Raleigh Cardenas for inspiration.
  3. Walk across your own stage: Create your own stage to walk across in your living room, patio, or sidewalk. Wear your cap and gown, and have your loved ones (pets included!) celebrate you and shake your hand. Check out the many options in this John Krasinski episode, starting at minute 6:25 and at the end.
  4. Virtual celebrations: No COVID listicle is complete without suggesting a Zoom party! Try a virtual celebration with UT-themed backgrounds and decorated caps with your classmates, friends, and loved ones. You can send an e-vite and frame it as your virtual graduation party to make it feel more like a celebration and less like a meeting.
  5. Pictures: Go through your pictures from your time at UT, and don’t hesitate to share them. You might enjoy being reminded of all that you have achieved and everyone you have met.
  6.  Photoshoot: Similar to going through pictures, graduates may have fun acknowledging this experience with a photoshoot in their cap and gown.
  7.  Decorate: On graduation day, decorate your house with UT swag!
  8. Livestream: Put your cap on and watch the Steve Hicks School virtual commencement ceremony on May 23 at 3pm. That evening, UT Austin will live stream remarks by university commencement speaker Brene Brown.
  9.  Say goodbye: Having closure is an important part of many experiences. Try to set up socially distant and safe goodbyes (include face masks and maintain 6 feet of distance). 


By Tori Yu. Posted May 11, 2020.