NAIT holding virtual convocation to celebrate more than 12,000 students amid COVID-19 pandemic

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Jonathan Mui says graduating virtually just doesn’t feel the same.

The 23-year-old completed the digital media and IT program at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT)  last year but graduation ceremonies were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to mark the academic milestone, classes from 2020 will be joining graduates from this year at a virtual convocation on Saturday. The online ceremony will be recognizing more than 12,000 students.

Although he finished school, Mui said it doesn’t feel that way.

“They did a little digital reception (that) was like five minutes, just saying congrats (but) it’s not the same,” he said. “I know it is only a two-year program but it felt longer to me. I kind of wanted a real graduation. I don’t get to throw my hat in the air with everyone else. I feel like I didn’t finish. I feel like I’m still in the program.”

Since graduating, Mui has shifted his focus to developing his tech company, which he has been working on since 2019 and officially launched last year. He said he doesn’t know if he will ever go back to school in order to experience an in-person graduation as he has to focus on building his business.

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Under Stage 1 of Alberta’s reopening strategy, outdoor social gatherings are limited to up to 10 people and indoor social gatherings are prohibited.

NAIT’s president and CEO Laura Jo Gunter said convocation is a big moment for students and it’s unfortunate that they aren’t able to attend in-person. She said the school has taken steps to recognize students as much as possible including publishing their names in the Edmonton Journal.

“We’ve done as much as we can to acknowledge them,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that they haven’t been able to walk across the stage but if any of them really want to walk across the stage when we come back to open, they can come and walk across the stage.”

NAIT’s 57th convocation will feature separate virtual ceremonies for its four schools: the School of Health and Life Sciences, JR Shaw School of Business, School of Skilled Trades, and School of Applied Sciences and Technology. Each ceremony will include elements of the in-person service including a blessing by Elder Verna Orr and an honour song by Lonny Potts.

Gunter said convocation not only acknowledges students completing their programs but also finishing during a difficult period.

“We’re really also celebrating their perseverance and their resilience and their grit,” she said. “The students who are graduating out of these years 2020 and 2021, are going to be very interesting hires because they’ve been able to adapt and rise up to the challenge and still be successful.”

The first virtual ceremony begins at 9:30 a.m. and can be viewed online at NAIT’s website. 

jlabine@postmedia.com

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