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Students eager to embrace unique conferral ceremony

  • Life after graduation:
    Life after graduation:  William & Mary President Katherine A. Rowe welcomed graduating seniors to her Community Conversation on Wednesday to discuss Commencement and their future plans.  by Nathan Warters
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William & Mary President Katherine A. Rowe welcomed students Kristen Popham ’20, Cameron How ’20, Elizabeth “Ellie” Thomas ’20, Milka Mered ’20 and Alexis Michalos M.Ed. ’20 to a special Community Conversation on Wednesday that focused on Commencement and life after graduation. 

Although Commencement has been postponed until October, the five seniors said they are eager to embrace the unique experience Saturday’s virtual conferral ceremony will present. 

“We’re getting two celebrations, which is really exciting, and there are going to be so many new surprises that come on Saturday that I’m super excited to be able to participate in,” Michalos said. “It’ll be a founding and a historic moment here at William & Mary amidst a history that this campus had already established.” 

Rowe, Chancellor Robert M. Gates ’65 L.H.D. ’98, Provost Peggy Agouris and the deans will preside over a virtual ceremony for all graduates of the Class of 2020 – undergraduate, graduate and professional – online Saturday morning beginning at 10 a.m. All students who have completed their graduation requirements will receive their diplomas via mail, following Saturday’s virtual conferral. 

The university plans to celebrate 2020 graduates in-person in the fall. William & Mary will host Commencement Weekend in Williamsburg during fall break, Oct. 9-11. 

A virtual conferral ceremony has its benefits. For one, more people can tune in. That’s one of the positives Mered is excited about. Friends who wouldn’t have been able to attend an in-person ceremony will now be able to watch, and she will be able to do the same for friends at other universities. 

“It’s kind of joyous,” Mered said. “I feel connected to the Class of 2020 on a national and global scale.” 

Thomas will be able to sit next to her mother and father during the ceremony, which will be particularly special for a family that bleeds green and gold. 

“The way I discovered William & Mary at first is because my parents both met here, so getting to graduate sitting next to them is pretty special,” Thomas said. 

In addition to the virtual conferral ceremony, other virtual meet-and-greets will be scheduled for students and faculty. Popham said she is excited to have the opportunity to express her gratitude to many of her professors. 

“I know I’ll see my fellow students again, but I really regret not getting that last coffee with my favorite professors, so I’m excited to thank them and kind of do that through a virtual way,” Popham said. 

The students told stories about their time at William & Mary and recounted some of the most important lessons they learned. 

How said he has had more opportunities recently to reflect on his time at William & Mary. 

“One of the hidden gifts of having this gradual end to our time at college is we have more time to reflect and integrate some of the lessons we’ve learned along the way,” he said.

Rowe closed the conversation by commending the students for their resilience during this difficult time, saying, “What you gave up was real. The difficulties and sadness are real.” 

Rowe said the goals of the virtual conferral ceremony are “to be joyful, to be personal and inclusive and to be different. We want to acknowledge the significance of this moment for William & Mary and for our nation.”