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The Graduation Ceremony for the AUC Class of 2020 was celebrated on Monday 6 July in a live broadcast via YouTube. AUC's first-ever online graduation ceremony, the names of more than 285 third-year students were read and the accomplishments of these students honoured with a ceremony full of inspiring speeches, praise from tutors/staff and video interludes based on student contributions.

Recurring themes of hope and resilience

Undeniably the biggest difference of this year’s graduation celebration compared to previous years was that there was no physical ceremony where graduates and their guests could come together to mark the end of their time at AUC. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus and consequent government measures in place since mid-March, the Class of 2020 experienced drastic changes not only to the way they studied, but also to their daily lives and routines. Like students around the world, they were challenged to rapidly adjust to the new norms of online courses, self-isolation and life under social distancing.

However, the members of the Class of 2020 rose to the challenge and led by example. They started organising innovative online events, creating outreach initiatives for those impacted by the crisis in their neighborhood, advocating for increased attention and action on issues of social justice and the environment, and completed their Capstone projects in times that demanded tremendous patience and creativity. It was not easy, to say the least, but throughout their time at AUC these students showed what the themes of the online ceremony would honour: hope and resilience.

Ceremony proceedings in extraordinary times

Hosted by AUC students Jet de Vries (President, AUCSA) and Bart Knibbe (Co-Chair, AUC Student Council), the live-stream of the online ceremony was broadcast via YouTube from the Audio-Visual Centre of the University of Amsterdam in order to allow graduating students, their families, guests and members of the wider AUC community to join together, from a distance, to acknowledge their achievements. Lasting just over an hour, the ceremony consisted of speeches by Prof. Dr. Murray Pratt (Dean, Amsterdam University College), Dr. Anne de Graaf (Chief Diversity Officer, University of Amsterdam), Gerylaine Campos (Alumni and External Relations Officer, Amsterdam University College) and Berend Jansen (President, AUC Alumni Association), and Benedict Hamlyn (Valedictorian, Class of 2020, Amsterdam University College). The names of graduating students were read by representatives Dr. Anco Lankreijer (Board of Examiners, Amsterdam University College) and Dr. Hilla Dayan (Lecturer, Amsterdam University College).

Dr. Anne de Graaf delivered the Commencement Address, discussing the ‘hunt for hope’ and her advice in the form of three W’s: be wary, be weak and be wrong. Dr. de Graaf began by explaining that one must be wary of fear and learn to face it in order to eventually overcome. One must also be weak, she further detailed, in order to be vulnerable and learn the lessons taught through humility in order to eventually mentor others. Finally, she stated that one must be wrong in order to properly listen, to grow as a person and develop more nuanced perspectives, understanding and compassion for the world. These lessons, she reiterated, are what started at AUC and would carry graduates forward in their hunt for hope and inspiration.

In the final speech of the afternoon, the Valedictorian Speech, Benedict Hamlyn furthered these sentiments by recounting the moment in his life that tested his resilience the most: the untimely and sudden passing of his brother. Hamlyn described how, even in the face of rapidly painful change, he found a way to be resilient with the support of his family, friends and community of fellow students, which gave him the strength and motivation to carry on studying, graduate and further affirmed a resound belief that by coming together the world can become a much better place.

Between the reading of names and extended speeches, short video interludes were shown that featured both student submissions in which they reflected on their time as students in Amsterdam and words of advice from a variety of AUC’s tutors and lecturers or the future. The ceremony concluded with a compilation video of the graduating class throwing their hats in the air from locations around the world, marking a special conclusion to their time at AUC.

Congratulations to the Class of 2020!

AUC would like to congratulate the graduates and to thank all those who contributed or tuned-in to watch the ceremony! You can re-watch the entire ceremony, along with the individual speeches and video interludes, via the links below.