Graduation is a joyful time, especially at a university like UALR that has a lot of first-generation college students. Parents are living out dreams and students (many are nontraditional age as well as first-gen) are achieving something they never thought possible.
The joy inherent in commencement is especially present at law school graduations. But for some reason, we have forgotten that commencement at the professional school level doesn't have to be staid and serious... That enjoying and celebrating student achievement doesn't have to be stuffy.
This year, we aimed to change that at the UALR Bowen School of Law. Starting with our annual graduation celebrations, students, faculty and staff worked on infusing them with more glee, just not the singing kind. Our dean John DiPippa (@jmdipippa) is notorious for his sense of humor and lust for life, so he was in for making as much of a celebration of his last graduation as dean as we could. Before graduation, he agreed to send out the following email:
Tomorrow's graduation will be an exciting time. I would like your help with the event, so I'm going to tell you to do something that's not commonplace here at Bowen.
Bring your phone to graduation!
That's right. I want you to participate in the ceremony in a very hands-on way! Make graduation a social (media) event.
- If you are on Twitter, please use the hashtag #bowengrad12 for tweets, photos, and videos.
- If you use Instagram, tag your photos with #bowengrad12.
- If you upload photos to Flickr, tag them bowengrad12.
- If you upload videos to YouTube, please tag them bowengrad12.
- If you upload photos or videos or status updates on Facebook, tag UALR Bowen School of Law or post them to our page at http://www.facebook.com/UALRBowenLaw
Let your parents, friends, and other family members know this is a perfectly appropriate way to celebrate our commencement and hooding ceremonies, encourage them to bring their phones to join in and then let's have fun with graduation!
We'll have a camera crew there, asking you questions about your future plans and Bowen's core values (professionalism, public service, and access to justice).
See you Saturday with my phone in hand!
Of course, we got a certain amount of muttering from the usual suspects about degrading such a solemn occasion. But on the whole, people really enjoyed it. It freed them up from worrying about how to act and let them do their thing.
In addition to this email, Dean DiPippa has - each year he's been dean - asked students to text, tweet, post a thank you message to someone who made a difference in their law school career. This year, I was speechless at the ringing, vibrating, and buzzing I heard in the ballroom where we held graduation. In fact, I almost cried at that point. Instead, I sent a thank you to the dean, who received a number of notes while he was onstage.
During the ceremony, we had people posting from the crowd, grads posting, and professors posting from the podium. I compiled most of them in a Storify
. Photos and notes of congratulation are posted on our Facebook page
. Overall, I think it was pretty successful in terms of engagement from a number of stakeholder groups.
We're waiting on a final look at the graduation video, but I'm sure that posting it on YouTube will start another round of comments and congratulations on various sites.
I've seen what a lot of folks did in their traditional college graduations. This was a pretty surprising response, given the general approach to ceremony in law school, so I thought I'd share that it can be done.