Student graduation event goes virtual

The coronavirus pandemic has altered the everyday lives of students and is also affecting celebrations: traditional graduation ceremonies have had to be held virtually. A new kind of event requires a richness of ideas and flexibility on the part of the organisers, but the first virtual graduation ceremony of the School of Engineering on 24 March was mostly well received by the students.
Virtuaalinen valmistumisjuhla 2021
Dean Gary Marquis (r.) and technical specialist Teemu Matilainen preparing for the first virtual graduation celebration.

The room was almost empty when Dean Gary Marquis opened the event, but more than 100 guests attended. Instead of handing out paper certificates, he read out the names of each of the graduates and their programmes or major subjects that they had studied. All who had completed their studies in the spring of 2020 were invited to the event. They had already received their certificates by mail. Recipients of the master's thesis prize for 2020 were also announced at the event.

The graduate’s speech was by Johannes Isohookana, who graduated with high marks in the Advanced Energy Solutions master's programme, majoring in Sustainable Energy Conversion Processes.

Joonas Isohookana
Johannes Isohookana

We have been equipped with the mindset to identify complex topics and areas that require improvements. We have adopted tools to research the factors and phenomena behind these topics. We have also learned skills to implement changes and creating improvements to the actual world.

However, we can't do this alone. COVID19 has taught us that we need each other more than we knew. One of the best things in student-life is that you meet constantly other students and therefore, bonding lifetime friendships has never been easier. Surviving and exceeding through overwhelming lectures and eternal calculus exercises would not have been possible without my friends that shared the situation with me. Moreover, the frequent and vivid student events reminded me that there is still life besides studying. It has been a privilege to get-to-know, work and challenge one another in this diverse university.

During the studies, there is little time to stop and think about what one has learned. I realized this when I stepped from the student-life to work-life where it was possible to use learned abilities differently. Researching and solving complex topics like global warming requires the mindset, tools and skills we have been equipped with at Aalto University. Therefore, I encourage you all to identify your strongest abilities and use them in whatever you desire to do after the university.

Finally, Vice President Petri Suomala congratulated the graduates in his speech.

As is typical for on-line events, the guests remained silent and listened. What was going through their minds? How did it feel to experience the climax of one's studies on Zoom?

Opinions varied, but most felt that the event was a great moment for celebrating a graduation. The performance by Retuperän WBK (the Retuperä Voluntary Fire Brigade Band) was praised.  It established a festive atmosphere from the very beginning.

‘Naturally, no virtual event can beat a physical graduation celebration, but I feel that the stylishly dressed speakers and performers were great at creating a celebratory atmosphere. I am grateful that a virtual graduation event was organised, and I feel that I have now officially completed my degree’, says one student who took part in the event.

‘The speeches by the Dean and the graduate were very topical and made me think about my own studies and my future, but also what an extraordinary time last spring was for completing studies and graduating’, the student added.

Arrangements for the virtual graduation celebration were made by Student Affairs Secretary Reeta Kalliomäki with the help of technical specialist Teemu Matilainen and Aalto Studios. Music was provided by Retuperän WBK and Polirytmi.

The next virtual graduation ceremony will be held on Wednesday, 21 April 2021. All those who graduated in the summer of 2020 have been invited, and 85 of them have signed up. After taking heed of feedback from the previous event, time has been set aside at the end to allow participants to send greetings through chat.

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