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Due to coronavirus regulations in place, the graduation celebration for the AUC Class of 2021 took the form of six ceremonies over the course of 6, 7 and 8 July at the AUC Academic Building. Each event was limited to 40 students per ceremony and consisted of a mix of pre-recorded speeches, a live speech by one of AUC’s academic tutors and the ceremonial reading of names during which graduates walked the stage. Each ceremony was live-streamed for family, friends and guests to join.

Health and safety as guiding principles

After more than a year of mostly online activities, AUC wanted to make the most of what would be safely and responsibly possible for a special graduation celebration for this year's third-year students. For the small-scale ceremonies, this meant that just as with on-campus education, the health and safety of students, staff and our community remained the guiding principle. Therefore, all in-person components were done responsibly and well within the bounds of what the rules allowed.

This included respecting the basic measures in place, such as limiting the number of individuals allowed in the AUC academic building, making the collection of any items (i.e. certificates, caps, tassels, yearbooks) contactless, ensuring all individuals involved in the ceremony maintained 1.5m distance throughout and that attendees were encouraged to use free self-tests before their arrival. This also meant that, outside of staff and students directly involved in the ceremony, no other guests were allowed on the premises.

Live and pre-recorded speeches

Each smaller graduation ceremony consisted of recorded video elements and live components. The format of these smaller ceremonies was based on the key elements of normal graduation ceremonies from prior years. The recorded elements including the Dean’s speech by Prof. Dr. Martin van Hees (Dean, AUC), the Commencement Address by Prof. Michael Puett (Walter C. Klein Professor of Chinese History in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University), a Welcome to the AUC Alumni Association by Gerylaine Campos (Alumni and External Relations Officer, AUC) and Julia Keizer (Chair, AUC Alumni Association), and the Valedictorian speech by Benjamin Wagenvoort (Valedictorian, Class of 2021, AUC).

The live components consisted of a short speech by one of AUC’s academic tutors, the reading of student names aloud, and the collection of ceremonial certificates by students walking across the stage. The AUC tutors who gave speeches and read names included Dr. Wade Geary, Dr. Forrest Bradbury, Dr. Cor Zonneveld, Dr. Michael McAssey, Dr. Joost Krijnen and Dr. Maxim Kupovykh.  

Resilience and celebration as themes

In each ceremony, the theme of the speeches revolved around resilience and celebration. With students having been through nearly 18 months of online and hybrid education heavily influenced by the coronavirus pandemic, they were congratulated not only for completing their academic programme, but for doing so under truly unprecedented circumstances.

With courses going fully online, travel restrictions being tightened, societal situations becoming unstable, and physical social activities around the world largely coming to a halt, this exemplary group showed resilience many times by quickly adapting to changes, coming together as a community and helping each other to continue and successfully complete their Bachelor’s degrees. What they completed is extraordinary, and although at times not what they had imagined their educational experience to be, they continued to excel and overcome obstacles time and again.

Fittingly, Valedictorian Benjamin Wagenvoort’s recorded speech ended each ceremony on a high note by focusing on the need for celebration. Emphasising that while graduation may mark the end of one chapter, he reminded his classmates to take the time to celebrate as one group, and to keep celebrating each time their paths would cross in acknowledgement of their ability to prevail and triumph when faced with hardship, challenges or uncertainty. This group, more than ever, was encouraged to celebrate responsibly as members of our community.

Congratulations to the Class of 2021!

Congratulations from AUC to all the members of the Class of 2021 on your truly extraordinary accomplishments over the previous three years.