UWG Graduates Record Class in First-Ever Virtual Ceremony

Colton Campbell

Monday, May 11th, 2020

The University of West Georgia conferred a record number degrees in a virtual ceremony that was live-streamed around the world Saturday.

The Spring 2020 Virtual Commencement represented the largest-ever single class of graduates from UWG, with 1,415 degrees being conferred. The name of each individual who earned a degree was called during the ceremony, which was held in the UWG Coliseum while following the appropriate social distancing guidelines.

“While we are celebrating each of our graduates today virtually, we will be coming together in the months ahead for an in-person Commencement ceremony when it is safe to confirm a date,” UWG President Dr. Brendan B. Kelly said. “In light of restrictions on public gatherings, we are not able to set a date at this time, but we look forward to celebrating the class of Spring 2020 in the time-honored tradition and moving your tassel from right to left.”

Kelly said he was sure of one thing amid all of the uncertainty surrounding the world during the COVID-19 pandemic: the world needs the graduates of UWG now more than ever.

“The world needs ingenuity,” he said. “We need innovation. We need people who can think creatively about the world and begin to help us invent the future, whatever it holds. You are the leaders we have been waiting for, and we need you to jump into the world, embrace challenges, make companies stronger, make communities healthier and more connected, and make every action impact positive change in the world.”

Of the degrees awarded, 972 were undergraduate degrees, and 443 were graduate-level. The deans of the university’s degree-awarding colleges and school – the College of Arts and Humanities; the College of Education; the College of Science and Mathematics; the College of Social Sciences; the Richards College of Business; the Tanner Health System School of Nursing; and University College – attended the ceremony, each presenting their approved candidates.

Khareem Leslie, the president of UWG’s Student Government Association, addressed the graduates in a prepared video, expressing his appreciation for the class’ resiliency and adaptability during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Even though we are going through these times, that won’t stop me from saying much of what I would have said in-person,” Leslie said. “ I just want to say thank you. Thank you for showing me it’s possible to overcome obstacles. Thank you for showing me we can adapt to unforeseen events that life may throw at us. Thank you for showing me that, together, we can conquer anything.”

During his remarks, Kelly focused on the theme of “becoming,” highlighting seven graduates of the class of Spring 2020 and their accomplishments while students at UWG.

“At graduations, we often say we are celebrating the end of one chapter and the beginning of something new,” he said. “And that is true. More importantly, we are celebrating a transformation in people’s lives. Do not stop learning. Do not stop challenging yourself to be better. Do not stop becoming. Your becoming is what we are celebrating today.”

Following Kelly’s remarks, Dr. Brad Yates, chair of the Department of Mass Communications, read the names of all 1,415 graduates.

Melanie Hildebrandt, chairperson of the UWG Alumni Association board of directors, concluded the event, inducting the graduates to the association and acknowledging that, although the ceremony took place under unique circumstances, graduates and their families all had a great reason to celebrate.

“You have graduated and are no longer students at the University of West Georgia; you have now earned the titles of alumni,” Hildebrandt said. “When you think of your time here at West Georgia, I do not want you to think of it in terms of ‘Went West,’ but instead ‘Forever West’ because from this day forward, you each will forever be alumni of this great institution.”