Hundreds of University of New Orleans students and their family of well-wishers tuned in Sunday, May 31, to the virtual commencement ceremony for the spring 2020 graduating class.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic required a change in venue, it did not diminish the celebratory spirit of the Privateer Nation. The University awarded 780 degrees this spring and many of the graduates submitted their photos and heard them names called during the virtual ceremony that was streamed live on YouTube.
“While a pandemic has prevented us from all being together physically,” President John Nicklow said in his virtual address. “The entire UNO community is united in the pride that we feel for our graduates.”
The program also included video messages from Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and University of New Orleans alumna Sheba Turk, co-anchor of WWL-TV’s Eyewitness Morning News. Brian Wingard, a UNO graduate student in jazz studies, sang the national anthem.
In his video message, Edwards applauded the graduates’ accomplishments and their tenacity to remain focused.
“Even though I can’t personally shake your hand at graduation, I want you to know how incredibly proud I am of everything you’ve accomplished and the persistence that it took to get here,” he said. “One of the things that our fight against COVID-19 has taught us is that we need creative, innovative minds like yours to bring forth solutions and build stronger communities.
"You are the future of Louisiana and because of you that future looks bright,” Edwards said.
Turk, who is a 2011 graduate, jokingly shared that she “just barely” graduated because she had to push through some financial difficulties in order to earn her degree.
She encouraged the Class of 2020 to let the pandemic-spawned struggles be a positive, self-defining learning moment.
“What I would say in tough times like these is take this time to define yourself as a person,” Turk said. “Who are you when everything is going wrong? Can you have faith in the toughest time? And, you can, but you have to work at it.”
Turk urged the graduates to be “caring, loving and supportive” of others, even while wrestling with personal setbacks.
“I’m not downplaying that what you guys are going through is really difficult and disappointing, but … when this is all over, you’ll be able to look back and say, ‘If I got through that, I can get through anything—and you certainly can!’”
The virtual ceremony included a shared main program and six individual links to the conferring of degrees for: Graduate School; College of Business Administration; College of Engineering; College of Sciences; College of Liberal Arts, Education & Human Development; and Interdisciplinary Studies.
The commencement ceremonies have been archived online and can be viewed here.