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Reconnecting ‘virtual’ alumni, celebrating new grads

As the College prepared to celebrate almost 1,200 new graduates for Fall 2022, it also invited ‘virtual grads’ back to campus in mid-October,

Alumni who graduated with virtual convocation ceremonies in 2020 and 2021 will have a chance to return to campus for a reunion celebration on October 27.

While the event is not intended to replicate an in-person convocation ceremony – since the College hosted interactive virtual ceremonies for both spring and fall graduates in 2020 and 2021 – the reunion celebration offers ‘virtual grads’ a chance to return to campus, pose for photos and celebrate with their former classmates.

“The experiences of our graduating classes of 2020 and 2021 are unlike any other in our history. While our interactive virtual convocation ceremonies were highly successful and offered our graduating students a chance to mark their special milestone in a safe and meaningful way before moving onto the next chapter of their lives, we know that many wished to don their gowns and celebrate with us in person,” said NC President Sean Kennedy.

“Our College community has been looking forward to the day when we could welcome our ‘virtual grads’ back to campus and we are thrilled to host a reunion celebration this fall that promises to be an event to remember.”

A class of business students connect through a Zoom party on their convocation day in June 2021.

While alumni will not cross the stage as part of a formal program at the reunion, they will have an opportunity to wear gowns, pose for photos, hear from speakers, and reconnect with their former classmates.

Alumni will hear from College president Sean Kennedy and Vice-President Academic Fiona Allan. Prominent NC alumnus Jason Ofield, President and CEO of Bulk Barn (Business – Sales and Marketing, 2005) is also scheduled to speak on the topic of resilience and leadership. A reception will follow with food from Niagara College’s School of Culinary Arts.

“This really is a unique reunion that speaks to the power of special connections our students forge at NC,” said Alumni Engagement Officer, Jana Boniferro. “It’s always wonderful when our alumni come back and connect.”

Community and Justice Services alumna Emily Gushue plans to take part in the reunion.  Due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gushue attended classes on campus for six months of her two-year program and marked her special milestone by attending her virtual convocation ceremony in June 2021.

“I was disappointed we could not all celebrate [convocation] in person but was thankful that we still all were able to recognize each other’s accomplishments virtually,” she said.

Gushue ended up making NC history at the virtual ceremony with the announcement that she was the College’s 100,000th graduate.

Emily Gushue celebrates the news of being the College’s 100,00th grad in June 2021.

Currently, the Welland resident is working as a support provider with Community Living Halidmand, providing support to people with physical and developmental disabilities. 

For Gushue, the event promises to be a meaningful one and she hopes to reconnect with her peers and former professors.

“I look forward to being able to see everyone and share with where we are now,” she said.

Sam Jemison, president of the College’s Student Administrative Council who graduated from Mechanical Engineering in 2021, recalled that while the pandemic may have impacted “the fun side” of the college experience, she feels that she benefited from virtual learning and enjoyed her virtual convocation, which allowed her to view the ceremony remotely while connecting with her classmates at Zoom parties.

“Acknowledging all of the tremendous hard work that went into both the production of it, and the delivery, was something that was truly admirable. I also enjoyed the nuances of what a virtual ceremony can provide versus an in-person hushed auditorium,” said Jemison. “Getting to have conversations and make remarks and comments while things were proceeding was a very unique way of enjoying grad.”

“My favourte part … the recording element of the ceremony. I was able to not only enjoy it while it happened, but the next day re-live it with my family.”

Jemison is excited about attending the reunion “100 percent for fun” while contributing to the event as student president, and looking forward to catching up with her former classmates.

“… it recognizes that there is more to graduation than the conferring of a diploma.” – Sam Jemison, NCSAC President (Mechanical Engineering, 2021)

“At graduation, you’re reminiscing on the immediate experience you’ve gone through to get there and it’s a flurry of emotions. The unique thing about the reunion is I get to reconnect and reminisce and look back on our experience a year or so out,” she said. “I think it is incredibly important because it recognizes that there is more to graduation than the conferring of a diploma. It is celebrating with your friends and family in a formal space, after all you’ve gone through, and all the personal and mental growth you’ve experienced.

“Having a specific time to dedicate with your friends, classmates, and peers is an incredible moment to just process, and be proud of all you’ve accomplished.

About 550 guests – including more than 300 alumni – have registered to attend the alumni reunion.NC staff and faculty were also invited to attend.

Fall Convocation 2022

President Sean Kennedy and the platform party applaud Class of 2022 graduates on the convocation stage (file photo, Spring Convocation 2022).

In celebration of more than 1,200 new graduates for Fall 2022, the College is hosting two in-person ceremonies at the Welland Campus on October 28.

The morning ceremony will be dedicated to 534 new graduates from its schools of Allied Health, Nursing and Personal Support Worker, Community Studies, and Justice and Fitness.

The afternoon ceremony will celebrate 664 graduating students from a variety of program areas within its schools of Academic and Liberal Studies; Business and Management; Environment and Horticulture; Culinary Arts; Hospitality and Tourism; Wine, Beer and Spirits; Technology; and Trades.

“Convocation is truly the highlight of the academic year for our College community, and we look forward to celebrating this significant milestone with our graduating students and their supporters,” said College President Sean Kennedy. “Our latest class will join our alumni community of more than 100,000 graduates who can be found succeeding and leading – not only in Niagara, but across Canada and around the world.”

Fall Convocation will include a special recognition for St. Catharines resident Doug Hamilton. The former Olympian and World Champion rower, with a 30-year career as an environmental lawyer, played a central role in the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games as Chair of its Board of Directors. An Honorary Diploma in Sport Management will be conferred upon Hamilton during the afternoon ceremony, in recognition of his leadership role in the Games.

NC will present an honorary credential to Doug Hamilton, who was Chair of the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games Board of Directors, on October 28. (Supplied photo)

“Through his leadership, Doug Hamilton played a key role in the success of the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games, which put our region in the national spotlight and created numerous experiential opportunities for students,” said Kennedy. “We look forward to recognizing his important contributions to our College and the community at Fall Convocation.”

For information or to view the livestream ceremonies visit niagaracollegeca/convocation.