Some might call this line trite or overused. However, I’ve always loved the quote. I used to think it’s because I was a dancer, but it’s actually the message about resilience that truly speaks to me. It’s a call to find beauty in the midst of adversity, to keep pushing when things feel upside down. Is it easy to live by? Certainly not. But it sure sounds pretty relevant today, right?
I don’t talk a lot about my “day job” on this blog, but I work as a communicator at Purdue University. During the past few weeks, my duties have brought me face-to-face with some incredible examples of resilience. Staff and faculty often talk about their desire to equip college students with the coping skills they will need to weather challenging times. Now, coronavirus is giving higher education an opportunity to walk the talk. It is demanding resilience in real time!
I’ve watched with awe as educators transformed in-person classes into online instruction (and did so in just one week). We’ve seen health and wellness program delivery move to social media platforms. Then there are the conferences and research presentations jumping to Zoom (essential video conferencing tips in this post)… and now commencement is going virtual.
Why am I sharing this example/observation? Well, in dark times, we could all use splash of inspiration! Watching how others “pivot” and adjust helps set us up to do the same.
College graduation is a right of passage, a moment students work toward for four years. What happens when social distancing puts a kibosh on commencement ceremonies? It’s a huge loss for graduates. It is irreplaceable. However, Purdue’s team didn’t give up. It got inventive, it showed resilience… and it put commencement in a box!
By tomorrow, the university will ship out nearly 7,800 packages to members of the Class of 2020 who are wrapping up their studies remotely across the U.S. and internationally. Each box will include a diploma cover, commencement program, earned honor cords/medallions, information about accessing downloadable photo backgrounds featuring iconic campus scenes, and instructions on how to participate in Purdue’s “on-demand” commencement.
I have so much admiration for the commencement team members (and the dozens of volunteers) who put their heart and soul into keeping some of the Purdue graduation experience intact for students. Commencement planners bounced ideas off a small group of graduating seniors and used their input to shape the ceremony.
Photo courtesy: Purdue University Commencement
Fun fact: In one day, a volunteer logged roughly 28,000 steps (about 10 miles) putting graduation kits together!
Purdue grads will have the opportunity to walk in a future ceremony, but the university wanted to help curb some of the disappointment immediately. Consequently, it is recreating all the trappings of its traditional commencement on video. There will be student speakers, an address from Purdue President Mitch Daniels, a virtual “procession” into Elliot Hall of Music, and music from Purdue Bands and the Purdue Musical Organizations.
Photo courtesy: Purdue University Commencement
Each graduate will also hear their name announced individually (that’s where I come in). I split the long, long list of names with a colleague, but let’s just say I still spent a lot of time in an audio booth earlier this month. Usually, we have the benefit of checking phonetic pronunciations with the students before each ceremony — as you see me doing above. This year we didn’t have that luxury. We tried to reach as many students as possible via email to get a pronunciation, but couldn’t possibly reach them all. Unfortunately, we will probably botch a lot of names.
Then again, that’s the thing about resilient moments… They’re rarely perfect. The beauty rests in doing the best job you can in unpredictable situations.
Purdue will soon be launching its commencement website for students to download their ceremonies. Will it be the same as an in-person graduation? Nope. But it is a measure of commitment and caring. And when grads find that tidy little box on their porch… they’ll know it was wrapped with a lot of heart!
Earlier this month, the Honors College launched a video series discussing resilience. We shot it last year, but are finding it feels increasingly relevant now. Your Story Matters features students grappling with significant stressors during college (e.g. financial instability, a kidney transplant, crippling perfectionism). Their coping strategies revealed some common themes:
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