As with most educational institutions, COVID-19 changed the way classes were taught, interaction with students and the thought of how graduation would take place.  In March, NCK Tech started to take steps to replace the traditional commencement exercise. NCK Tech administration and staff began to put a plan into action. The first step was to get student input. Even though there were many ideas, one overwhelming theme dominated and that was the students wanted to feel like they could be together and still celebrate one another.

Graduation kits were sent to all graduates. These “graduation kits” included commencement regalia (cap, gown, tassel), honors cords, leadership cords, a letter from the President, Eric Burks, and yard signs to place in their yards or at their homes.  Within the letter was a congratulations for completing their program successfully and then the process for submitting a photo.

“Graduation is a huge point of pride for our entire institution,” commented Jayme Owen, Dean of Student Success.  “It is a great accomplishment to start a program and to complete the program, let alone during a world-wide pandemic.  It was important to honor our students and be able to let them show pride in their program.” Once students received their graduation kits, the response from students was very positive.  Photos and comments from students were being submitted. During this time, faculty were recording messages to be included in commencement video.

NCK Tech normally includes a Military Veterans “thank you” during the traditional commencement exercise. This year was no exception as three Honorary Veteran’s Awards were acknowledged.

The time-honored tradition is important to every institution and NCK Tech has continued with this important event though virtually. Committee members worked tirelessly to produce a graduation to remember. Watch parties of the video with instructors and students was a critical element in the graduation production. “The virtual commencement and watch parties were a huge undertaking and the culmination of the incredible efforts of so many staff and students,” commented President Eric Burks. “I greatly appreciate everyone’s contributions, and from the reaction we’re receiving so do our students. The challenge was to create a safe way to celebrate our students’ achievements that was in no way less, and if possible, better.  By displaying photos of students in their regalia as their names were called, we were able to provide a moment of individual recognition which is so important at commencement.”

The release of the 2020 NCK Tech Graduation videos (one for each Beloit and Hays) will be June 23, 2020 and will be available on Facebook and YouTube.

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