How Alumni Associations Are Getting Creative With Honoring Grads

With COVID-19 changing the definition of what graduating means for many high school and college students, alumni associations are trying new ideas to ensure the big day still has a special feel.

Each year, alumni associations add another class to their ranks. But no group has added a class quite like the 2020 one, since graduates cannot be in the same room.

Some might see this as a challenge, but a number of alumni associations are finding opportunities to bring grads together with a series of creative ideas. Among them:

Create a kudos board. The University of Washington Alumni Association has used the Tumblr-like service Kudoboard to help highlight messages cheering on 2020 grads. The page includes clever illustrations, memes, and cute animal GIFs full of congratulatory messages and good vibes. In comments to the university’s newspaper The Daily, UWAA Associate Director of Events Julie Peter noted that the page was inspired by the university’s school of medicine using the service to show support to healthcare workers. “The class of 2020 need to know that the alumni community is thinking of them,” Peter told the outlet. “One of the reasons we created this board is for there to be an outlet for all the goodwill and well wishes that that community has for the class of 2020.”

Build signs for new graduates. New Jersey’s Trenton Central High School had hoped to celebrate its first graduating class in a new facility this year. Instead, students are graduating in a more remote fashion in a state that has been heavily hit by COVID-19. But that hasn’t stopped the TCHS Alumni Association from getting creative. The group has worked with the school district to build and create signs for every graduating senior, which it has placed on the high school’s grounds. “What a great way of celebrating the first class of the new school, even though they couldn’t hold a formal graduation ceremony, to date,” TCHS Alumni Association member Karl Flesch told “At least the community is showing how proud we are of the students.”

Stream unique video programming for an online commencement. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a school known for its brilliant alumni, and perhaps it’s for that reason the school’s alumni association wanted to make sure that it was there for the new graduates. After the main commencement, the association offered a post-program video and other content to the 3,500 new graduates, with the goal of highlighting their dedication to them. “This season is a defining experience for the graduates of 2020, and we know that will stay with them,” explained Victoria Gonin, the executive director for alumni relations, in comments to MIT News. “We want them to feel immediately welcomed by an alumni community who will benefit from their talents, perspectives, and experiences.”


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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