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Another Class Graduates - Virtual Style


April 22, 2021 was a day of firsts for the BYU Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.

For the first time, it broadcasted an event live from the lobby. For the first time, the graduating class participated in convocation virtually. For the first time, the department held its own convocation, independent of the College of Engineering.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the 2021 convocation couldn’t follow the format of years past. Social distancing restrictions mandated that all ceremonies go virtual, thus all graduation events took place online.

For context, a traditional graduation consists of an in-person university commencement with speakers and an in-person college convocation with more speakers and the reading of graduate’s names.

The commencement format didn’t change much this year (beyond connecting to its audience via livestream), but the college divided and conquered. They held a ceremony with speakers via livestream and left the responsibility of reading off graduates’ names to each department.

Hence, the first individual Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Convocation Ceremony took place in April 2021.

The format itself was simple. Chair Aaron Hawkins shared a few introductory words, read off the names of all 140 graduates while their pictures displayed on the screen, and shared a few closing words. It lasted no more than twenty minutes and took place entirely in the ECEn main lobby.

Senior Ethan Angerbauer said his graduation was not what he expected when he first started studying at BYU; like many students, he imagined a traditional cap-and-gown affair.

“It still sort of feels like it wasn’t a real graduation in some ways,” he said.

He said he was sad not to experience it with his classmates, but he appreciated the convenience of the livestream. While family members tuned in from afar, he watched it with a small gathering of friends with whom he celebrated afterwards.

Angerbauer believed the best part of the three ceremonies (three ceremonies were another first for most students) were the speakers. He said Elder Gong gave advice and a college speaker said that graduates could find fellow BYU alumni wherever they went, and the speeches helped graduation feel more “real.”

Hawkins said he couldn't believe Angerbauer's favorite part wasn't the riveting reading of graduates' names. 

Despite the unusual circumstances of the convocation ceremony, Angerbauer said the future looks promising for himself and his classmates - even those who don’t know what it looks like yet.

“Engineering degrees give lots of options,” he said. “I don’t exactly know what I want to do, but I know that there will be options.”