Thursday 5 May 2022 11:54am
Getting ready for graduations are Student Experience staff (clockwise from top left) Bronwen Stephens, Graham Weatherly, Jade van Heezik and Sarah Duncan
Excitement is building as the University prepares to return to in-person graduations this weekend.
Restrictions imposed because of the COVID-19 pandemic hampered Otago’s ability to host the traditional Dunedin graduation ceremonies throughout much of 2021. And a security threat unrelated to the pandemic forced the cancellation of the December 2020 ceremonies.
Vice Chancellor Professor David Murdoch says: “The University is delighted that students and their whānau and supporters can celebrate graduation this month with in-person ceremonies.
“It has been a difficult couple of years and our student community has responded with resilience to the numerous challenges posed by the pandemic. It is heartening to see a sense of normality returning with graduands able to have their big day which is such a key part of the Otago experience.
“I am especially pleased that students whose graduation was cancelled last year will be able to cross the stage in a special acknowledgement ceremony on 7 May.”
Group Leader Student Administration Graham Weatherly, who has overseen graduations since last July, is looking forward to his first in-person events.
“COVID prevented our graduations in December, and the certificate collection service we ran instead really highlighted to us how important these events are for our graduating students and their whānau.
“But to have it confirmed that we're running graduations in person at the town hall, that’s exciting for the team. And obviously for the students. There have been a lot of students who have been deferring for the last year or so in the hope of being able to celebrate in person so it is fantastic that we now have the chance to do this.”
There will be six ceremonies in May, beginning at 1pm this Saturday with an acknowledgement ceremony for students whose graduation was cancelled last year. Around 380 students are expected to cross the stage in full regalia with families in attendance.
A further 1500 students will be spread across the remaining five ceremonies, rounding out their Otago experience with the traditional parade down George St to Dunedin Town Hall. Road works mean this year’s route will involve a small detour down Filleul St.
“It's about our students but it's just as much about the guests who are coming to see their children and loved ones. It’s shaping up to be a really positive series of events. We've got some really good speakers lined up and Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins is coming to all six of the ceremonies. It's going to be a big few weeks.”
Chancellor Stephen Higgs says is looking forward to his first graduation since taking up the role in March.
“As is best to ensure that things go well, on this huge day for graduands and their family and friends, there is a little healthy nervousness,” he says. “While the University of Otago experience for most students is about a wider education about life, friendships, flatting, and a bit of social activity, graduating is the exciting start of the next stage of graduands’ lives. So it will be an honour to play this small part in this significant day for graduands and their family and friends.
Graduations are not only important to individuals also bring wider benefits to the city, he says.
“The ceremonies are about recognition, celebration and thanks - to staff, students, and family. And they are important for Dunedin, bringing a very positive sense of achievement, and more than a little economic benefit.”
The Orange Level setting means the University is strongly encouraging attendees to wear masks on entry to the town hall.
“However, once seated, it will be left to the individual to decide what they are comfortable with. The good news is students will not require masks when crossing the stage.”
Graham says graduations are great events to be involved in and any staff interested in volunteering can sign up through eVision: https://evision.otago.ac.nz/sitsvision/wrd/siw_lgn