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Actions match words

Small colleges frequently claim to offer students a personalized and individualized educational experience. Davis & Elkins College is tangibly demonstrating our actions match our words.

Among the many tragedies of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the cancellation of graduation ceremonies. For D&E’s spring 2020 graduates, we chose not to hold a virtual graduation as many colleges did, primarily because it didn’t seem consistent with the intimacy of the campus experience that is a hallmark of this college. In May our graduates voted to hold the 2020 commencement during Homecoming week, specifically on September 19. The plan was to move the ceremony outdoors to our front lawn, often called “Coronation Hill” for its role in the Mountain State Forest Festival.

As the fall season approached and the coronavirus continued to spread, Homecoming became virtual and it became increasingly apparent that bringing more than 1,000 people together for a commencement, even in an outdoor setting, would be risky and irresponsible. It would put attendees, the campus community, and even the town of Elkins at risk. After consulting with the local health department, reluctantly we informed our graduates that a fall commencement at D&E simply was not possible. However, we made a commitment that we would hold a graduation ceremony, and we decided to abide by our word. So, a new and creative idea was birthed for an institution that prides itself on a personalized educational experience.

Rather than a single commencement ceremony, D&E will be conducting 13 outdoor commencement ceremonies in towns and cities across five states. Our traveling commencement tour begins on September 21 and will conclude on September 26. Joining me will be the chair of our Board of Trustees, three vice presidents, our First Lady and our Sports Information Director to handle communications and technical assistance. Each of our commencement ceremonies will consist of 10 or fewer graduates and their families, and locations were chosen to get us as close to the hometowns of the largest number of our graduates as possible. All precautions for attendees and our traveling party will be taken to keep everyone safe, including required masks and social distancing in these outdoor settings.

Davis & Elkins College cares about each of our students and does all within our power to provide a high quality and high touch education. This philosophy extends to graduates as well, who will have an opportunity to walk across a “stage” albeit not the one in Harper-McNeeley Auditorium. We will have 13 glorious opportunities to celebrate this milestone for our graduates, their families and the college.

2020 continues to be an unprecedented year, and it calls for flexibility and creativity. Our “graduation road show” is one such example that demonstrates yet again to our current and prospective students that D&E is “Leading the Way” as we meet the needs of our student body even amidst an historic health crisis.

This weekly column is all about the journey. Next week, we literally go on the road and journey to the intersection of the lives of our graduates and their alma mater. Let the graduation season commence!

The journey continues….

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