(Brief introductory note. New year, new name. It’s still me, the same old Ashley, just with a different last name.)
Virtual. It’s a word we’re all tired of hearing. From virtual happy hours to online events, our relationship with Zoom got serious fast.
But, virtual is also a word that has spurred a lot of creativity. It was inspiring to watch higher education social media professionals around the country find meaningful ways to bring their digital (and distanced) communities together. I especially saw the digital togetherness during college and university commencement celebrations. For many higher education institutions, virtual graduation is looking like it might be a reality again this spring. So, I’ve pulled together a few exceptional examples of creativity and innovation from fellow social media teams.
From toolkits to stickers to hashtags and more, the #HESM community showed up for their graduates.
The Ohio State University featured UGC in its commencement video
The Ohio State University let graduating students submit their own pictures to be included in the university’s commencement video. Not only was this a great way to help seniors feel included in graduation, but a great way to gather UGC, as well.
University of Michigan’s one-word student spotlights
The University of Michigan created a cool student spotlight by featuring photos of 30 graduates alongside one word the students used to describe their college experience. To wrap up the series, Michigan posted a single photo with all 30 words as the description for the post. I thought this was a powerful (and concise) way to feature grads’ and their experiences.
Brigham Young University collected a TON of graduation speeches submitted by its community to create this heartwarming video. I can’t imagine how much time and work that took, but it paid off. The Instagram video has more than 20,000 views!
Arizona State University looks back: 2016-2020
I thought Arizona State University’s look back at the Class of 2020 was a brilliant and touching way to relive the class’ accomplishments and special moments. I don’t know how they found all of that footage, but I’m sure it was no easy feat. What a special way to pay tribute to a strong and resilient class.
Texas A&M’s graduation video
While graduation ceremonies weren’t a reality for many of us, Texas A&M created a special video to showcase theirs. The beautiful speech over the heartwarming video is sure to give anyone chills.
University of Michigan’s downloadable mortarboard
Customizing your graduation cap is a time-honored tradition for graduating @UMichStudents. This year may require more creativity, but @UM_Stamps has created a downloadable mortarboard to help you customize your cap at home. https://t.co/hL7qecmDaj #MGoGrad pic.twitter.com/bOrAhWNQG3
— University of Michigan (@UMich) December 15, 2020
Decorating the grad cap. It’s a tradition. But, many students didn’t get grad caps this year. The University of Michigan fixed that problem by creating a downloadable mortarboard that students could decorate themselves.
University of Houston’s graduation photo op (IRL)
— University of Houston (@UHouston) December 15, 2020
The University of Houston set up three photo-op locations on campus for its graduating students. I thought this was a genius way to give grads a better backdrop than their Zoom backgrounds for grad pics, and likely provided a ton of beautiful UGC for the University of Houston to share on its own social media channels.
James Madison University’s grad cap design contest
Again, decorating grad caps is a time-honored tradition. James Madison University took creativity up a notch by holding a cap decorating contest. Again, this is such a great way to solicit UGC and get grads involved, even from home.
Arizona State University’s Virtual Graduation Toolkit
I saw many awesome graduation social media toolkits out there. Bravo to everyone who created the toolkits, because those take a ton of time and creativity. I want to feature Arizona State University’s toolkit because it’s so robust and gave me some good ideas for our next toolkits. ASU’s toolkit has everything from Zoom backgrounds to Pinterest boards, stickers and filters. Find the toolkit here.
Colorado State University’s coordinated alma mater tweet thread
I couldn’t end this blog without sharing a few things our team did for CSU’s Fall 2020 graduation. CSU had a completely virtual commencement ceremony in December. However, the university also planned a ceremonial Walk Across the Oval (a historic and beloved campus location). In November, Ram Grads put on their regalia, drove to campus, and walked across a stage on the Oval to receive their diploma (physically distanced and masked). I don’t mention this because it was our idea (it wasn’t), but it provided us the opportunity to capture and share a rare and beautiful moment for our Class of 2020.
We also collaborated with the social media managers from all eight colleges at CSU to coordinate a threaded tweet of the CSU Alma Mater. While this was a fun idea for our fans, it was also a really nice moment to share with other social media managers at CSU. It was fun to work on a project together during a year where we’ve all been physically disconnected from the university and each other.
Here are a couple other projects we did to celebrate Ram Grads last fall:
- We created our first Twitter Moment for graduation, which included a collection of many #CSURamGrad2020 tweets in the Twittersphere
- We featured two Ram Grads in a Q&A-style Instagram post (a new initiative we started in 2020. Learn more about our Instagram Q&A features). We interviewed the parents of one Ram Grad, which made for a very sweet Q&A and photo shoot. We also featured a Ph.D. student who completed his doctoral degree while juggling work and family.
- Last, we created a digital celebration for our Class of 2020 to showcase all our Ram Grads through UGC. We asked Ram Grads to submit their favorite photo from their time at CSU using a specific hashtag (#CSURamGrad2020), and compiled the photos in one place using Sutori, a web tool that creates interactive timelines to share content and stories. The Sutori timeline was shared on social media and embedded on CSU’s commencement website for grads to check out all year.
I’m sure graduation this year wasn’t the graduation anyone wanted, but it’s the one we got, and universities across the nation stepped up to make the best of a hard situation.
I think we should celebrate that 👏