Behind the scenes, a journey to convocation

convocation hall uwaterloo

This spring, 1250+ degrees and diplomas were presented to graduate students who achieved the culmination of their hard work and celebrated their convocation ceremony. However, students are not the only ones who worked hard to get to this day!  In this blog post, I will share with you some of the "behind the scenes” work that staff and faculty across campus manage, to make convocation a remarkable celebration for you.

In Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA) the work for our records team begins in April and May, when you’ve completed your final course or milestone and graduate co-ordinators are confirming that you’ve met your degree requirements. When that information is verified, our team in GSPA puts (nearly) everything else aside and swiftly completes the degree completion process in Quest for each graduating student (which we call “coding”). To give you a sense of scope, around half of all our graduating students finish their programs over a 2-week timespan, meaning ~300 students’ records are coded in just 10 days at the end of each term.  

Another element that we spend a lot of time on is making sure your names are right – the spelling and accents are correct, your degree is what you’ve earned, and that you’re listed for the correct ceremony.  So, over the next month, the entire list of graduands is sent to the records teams in the Registrar’s Office (for undergraduates) and GSPA (for master’s and doctoral students) four times, to check names and ensure everyone is present, followed by two checks of the final program. We know how hard you worked for this moment, and we want to get it right.

About one week prior to the first ceremony, the most important element arrives to us – your diploma.  The University receives all the diplomas – about 7,000 including undergraduates’ degrees – in one big shipment. GSPA and the Registrar’s Office come together to check spelling and print quality, place your diploma into the black folder you receive it in, and to organize it for ceremony day (there’s no coffee allowed in this room).

For those who aren’t able to attend convocation, we make sure your diploma arrives to you, wherever you are in the world. Normally, this would take place after the convocation ceremonies, with the diplomas that weren’t presented being shipped. This year, with the introduction of the registration system, we were able to package up diplomas for anyone not attending in person and expedite their arrivals with the intention that grads would have them in hand while watching their ceremony livestream from across the globe.

On the day of convocation, there’s a lot for us to do. We play a role in getting the University leaders, our faculty members and our honoured guests – you, your families and loved ones – in the right place at the right time so convocation can happen smoothly and successfully. For our graduates, perhaps the most important (and easily overlooked) part of the day is that little green card you are handed at the ceremony. These are carefully prepared to ensure that you get the correct hood – the symbol of your graduation – and that your name is called in the correct order. Speaking of names, associate deans and other faculty members pore over grad lists and research online and with colleagues to endeavour to pronounce your name correctly as you cross the stage.

We strive to ensure that everyone has a rewarding convocation experience, and we know it is a special day—a day for grads to celebrate themselves and their peers, recognize award recipients and hear student colleagues address their peers.  

We know that the journey grads take to earn a diploma is filled with years of care and planning; know that the behind-the-scenes work completed for convocation is similarly complex and requires careful attention and planning. Ultimately, our goal is to make the celebration of your journey feel worthy of the work it took to get there. We celebrate you, and we know you will continue to do great things!