The COVID-19 global pandemic forced universities across the nation to rethink commencement ceremonies and move celebrations online. West Virginia University held its first virtual commencement ceremony, and the College of Media recognized graduates, including the first from the Sports and Adventure Media major, through social media and a new online yearbook.
On May 16, WVU held Mountaineer Graduation Day, an online commencement experience for May 2020 graduates. While the ceremony was unlike any in the history of the University, it still featured key elements of the traditional May ceremony. Provost Maryanne Reed congratulated graduates, President E. Gordon Gee gave a keynote address and conferred degrees, and students moved their tassels to the left before singing “Country Roads” from their homes all over the world.
“As you continue traveling toward your dreams in the years ahead, you will understand better than any class before that journeys can make shocking and unexpected detours,” said Gee. “Grit and determination have always fueled Mountaineers. That spirit empowered your quest for a degree and it will continue to sustain you during this very difficult time. But as the word commencement implies, your real journey is only beginning.”
The ceremony lasted about 45 minutes and included student-submitted photos and videos that captured the WVU experience. Country music star and West Virginia native Brad Paisley was awarded a Presidential honorary degree and offered brief remarks before launching into “Country Roads.” Additional speakers included Vice President and Executive Dean for Health Sciences Clay Marsh, Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Meshea Poore and former CEO and Chairman of Cisco Systems Inc. and founder and CEO of JC2 Ventures John Chambers.
More than 220 College of Media students graduated this month, earning bachelor’s degrees in journalism, strategic communications, sports and adventure media and multidisciplinary studies, and master’s degrees in journalism, integrated marketing communications and data marketing communications. The College also recognized Noah Clune as the first graduate of the Sports and Adventure Media program.
“I live and breathe the outdoors and adventure sports, and this major has allowed me to do it all with a camera," said Clune. "I’m excited to see what this major will do to aid in West Virginia in becoming a world-renowned outdoor destination. Mountaineers go first, and I’m happy to be the first of many that will come out of this program.”
After graduation, Clune plans to work as a rafting guide for Laurel Highlands River Tours at Ohiopyle State Park, Pennsylvania. His dream job is to work in the outdoor industry, producing video and photo content for professional athletes. During his time at WVU, he was a member of the WVU Outdoor Adventure Club, president of the Ukulele Club and held an internship with Morgantown City Hall. Clune led first-year freshmen trips with Adventure WV, worked at their Outdoor Education Center as a zip line and high ropes guide and also worked at the Outdoor Rec Center as a gear technician.
Leading up to commencement, the College of Media recognized top undergraduate students on a new yearbook webpage and encouraged students to share memories and submit short videos and photos on social media. Mary McFarland of Charleston, W.Va., Rachel Rogers of Grafton, W.Va., and Douglas Soule of Morgantown, were tied as the top overall scholars, earning the highest grade point average (4.0) of the May 2020 undergraduate class. Patrick Orsagos of Avon, Ohio, Anna Saab of Star City, W.Va., Maxwell Shavers of Charleston, W.Va., and Douglas Soule were recognized as Outstanding Seniors in Journalism. Addison Ammons of Bridgeport, W.Va., Abigail Briggs of New Castle, Pa., Caitlin Cuomo of Follansbee, W.Va., Mary McFarland and Nicholas Morin of Danielson, Conn., were recognized as Outstanding Seniors in Strategic Communications. Savannah Schafer of Charleston, W.Va., was the Outstanding Senior in Multidisciplinary Studies. In addition, 50 bachelor degree candidates were recognized for their academic achievement by being awarded degrees cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude.