Gratitude instead of disappointment permeated UW-Green Bay’s Drive-through Commencement experience today, Saturday, August 22, 2020 on the Green Bay Campus.
For many of the 1,029 students eligible to graduate in spring of 2020 from all four of UW-Green Bay’s campuses, the experience wasn’t what they had hoped to be the culminating event of their college career. While decision-makers held out as long as possible in hopes of hosting a traditional commencement, COVID-19 percentages failed to cooperate. An early-summer decision was made to transition to an experience that would limit in-person touches and protect members of the Phoenix family… and their families.
For more than 200 graduates and their families electing to participate, the mood was sincere, celebratory and joyful.
Parents didn’t miss an opportunity to yell thank you to Commencement personnel. Graduates interviewed by media said they had “no regrets,” in choosing UW-Green Bay, nor participating in the event the University was able to organize. This resilient group of grads, “revolutionary,” according to Student Commencement Speaker Jada Davis, have learned to make the best out of unpredictable situations. In March, instead of getting back to the basics after Spring Break, the students were told that they should return to campus only to gather their things and head home, because the pandemic was gaining ground in Wisconsin. Those who needed to remain in Residence Life were able, while all four campuses moved to complete virtual and alternative teaching and learning environments in little more than a week.
But today, each graduate was cheerfully welcomed back, with a care package, their diploma cover (diplomas were mailed this summer) and a photo with Chancellor Michael Alexander; while faculty, staff, administrators and other volunteers held up signs and cheered the passing cars along the drive-through route to the Phoenix Rising sculpture for a priceless photo with partners, children, parents and friends. Other stops for the informal photos included Residence Life, the Studio Arts alumni mural and the Shoe Tree.
Davis, who had pre-recorded her speech for release on Commencement Day, returned for the drive-thru experience before she heads off to Marquette Law School.
“What a time to be alive,” she said. “We are experiencing challenges personally, locally, nationally, globally, the likes of which only history has experienced for us. Just a few months ago we didn’t even know if we’d have the opportunity to share this moment together as everything seemed to fall through the cracks all at once.”
But, she says, “The time to rise from the ashes has never been more at hand! The many challenges we’ve faced during these unprecedented times are some which we will be able to reflect on. They have made us stronger and more adept to change. They have made us smarter and more creative. Whenever we face adversity in the future, we will be able to draw strength and knowledge from this time to get through. And for that, I am grateful.
We will be among the most resilient people in the world.
We are revolutionary.
We are the class of the year 2020.”
View her entire speech, here.