When the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting closure of the College’s Willowbrook campus made it abundantly clear to the College of Staten Island Commencement committee that a physical ceremony would not be possible, they had to find a Plan B. Eventually, a subcommittee that formed to determine what that route would be came upon the idea of creating a video to honor the Class of 2020. The video begins with a message of support from CSI President William J. Fritz and ends with a salute from Student Government President Fatu Amara. What comes between those two segments was truly special, as it was a series of photos of faculty and staff members holding signs that offered encouragement and congratulations. In essence, the campus was able to come together, virtually, to give our graduates the honors that they deserve for a job well done.
Jennifer Borrero, CSI Vice President for Student Affairs and Alumni Engagement, said that although a virtual Commencement ceremony was considered, the subcommittee rejected the plan because the College is still planning to hold a physical ceremony sometime this fall, if at all possible. Once they settled on the video concept, they asked members of the faculty and staff to send in photos of themselves holding signs with messages to the grads. About 50 photos came in, regardless of the fact that it was Finals Week and a lot was going on at the College.
Amazingly, the video was ready in about ten days, due the hard work of subcommittee members, and the technical expertise of the Library’s Mark Lewental and Tony Gallego, as well as George Davis IV from the Office of Communications. Everything was ready for the release date of May 28, the day that Commencement would have been held.
Feedback from the students was overwhelmingly positive, according to VP Borrero. She said that once they viewed it, some students contacted her to say that they would like to participate if another video was planned. This isn’t going to happen, though, because the Committee has turned its attention to planning the formal ceremony.
VP Borrero summed up the significance of this video project by stating, “I think it was important for the College to send a message to the Class of 2020 that they aren’t forgotten, we are proud of them, we recognize their achievements, and also we know what an unusual semester and time it is in our nation. So, we just wanted to let them know that we’re here for them, and we love them.”
By Terry Mares