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Drexel’s College-level Commencement Ceremonies Go Virtual

June 15, 2020

A mosaic created by the Drexel University College of Computing & Informatics featuring their 2020 graduates.

From synchronous Zoom celebrations to spoken word, the Drexel University college and school commencement celebrations of the Class of 2020 were memorable in their own right — but also for the obvious reason that they each took place online this year.

On June 10 and 11 (plus one college still planning to celebrate on June 20), commencement web pages were launched, dozens of congratulatory videos were released, and even though it was different from the typical annual events on campus, these virtual events and the administration, faculty and staff who took part did everything in their power to send 2020 Dragons off in style, and to highlight their many accomplishments.

Here’s a round-up of each college and school virtual celebration for their 2020 graduates:

Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship

The Close School hosted a synchronous Zoom celebration for its graduates on June 10 featuring a speech from Dean Donna De Carolis, PhD, and short videos from graduating students relaying their fondest Close School memories or what’s next after graduation.

Another famous friend of the Close School also offered some words of encouragement to the graduates:

“We are all so proud of you. Now, look, we know this wasn’t the graduation that you were all expecting — probably not the graduation that you were all wanting — but the reality is this, you are forever in the history books as the quarantine graduation class of 2020, which forever makes you different, which to me is a pretty important concept. Be proud of being different. Be proud of thinking different, be proud of doing things different. Change the world for the better.” — Jon Dorenbos, former Philadelphia Eagles player and magician.

College of Arts and Sciences (CoAS)

CoAS is hosting its virtual celebration on June 20, but for now graduates can head to this page to read a note from Dean Norma Bouchard, PhD, and contribute to a Class of 2020 Kudoboard.

College of Computing & Informatics (CCI)

CCI celebrated its graduating Dragons by sharing some of their favorite memories on social media leading up to the virtual event on June 10. Then went live a downloadable mosaic of the CCI Class of 2020 as well as video messages from faculty, staff, the graduating class and final remarks from Dean and Isaac L. Auerbach Professor Yi Deng, PhD.

The college will also be hosting an additional virtual Commencement event on June 29 at 6 p.m. via their YouTube channel to recognize graduates individually.

College of Engineering (CoE)

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CoE highlighted the accomplishments of its “Dragoneers” with tons of content on its Commencement 2020 site. This included messages from Dean Sharon L. Walker, PhD; a listing of graduates; congratulatory messages and slideshows from family and friends; student spotlights and remarks; and social assets for sharing. Memories all around!

"As an international student, I remember how my visa process got delayed and instead of starting in fall, I ended up starting in the winter quarter. I missed all the different orientations but when I came here, it felt as if I didn’t miss a thing. I was welcomed with the same enthusiasm by my colleagues and faculty at the College of Engineering.

Over my time here I have had made some great memories, and I have learned immensely from those experiences. Whether it is the technical knowledge I have acquired or the ability to do research, or the soft skills, and even my squash playing skills, I have improved in every aspect when I look back to where I was when I first started at Drexel Engineering." — Saad Intikhab, Chemical and Biological Engineering PhD ’20, in his graduate student remarks.

College of Nursing and Health Professions (CNHP)

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CNHP’s virtual graduation celebration on June 11 featured a video punctuated with remarks from Dean and Distinguished University Professor Laura N. Gitlin, PhD, messages from college leadership and heartfelt accounts from student speakers as they look toward starting their healthcare and food and hospitality careers during a global pandemic.

Then keynote speaker Anthony Gold reminded the graduates how much leadership and mindset could come to contribute to their future successes in their respective fields.

"Your mindset will determine your path forward, and with the right mindset the world is ready for your caring heart and your healing hands. While my first day at Drexel changed my life, your last day at Drexel is going to change the world." ¬– Anthony Gold (BS electrical engineering ’88), entrepreneur, director, advisor and startup investor in healthcare

Goodwin College of Professional Studies

Goodwin College hosted video remarks starting June 10 from Assistant Dean Tim Gilrain as well as undergraduate and graduate student speakers, and also written remarks or words of encouragement from directors, department leaders and faculty.

A high note came from Keynote Speaker Lois Moran, a career woman, entrepreneur and success-maker. She is co-founder and former CEO of JUICE Pharma Worldwide and author of “Career VOLTA: Shift Your Career into High Gear,” as well as mother of a Westphal College of Media Arts & Design #foreverdragon.

“So what are you doing with your gravitas? Are you nurturing it? Are you bringing the best personal power you can to the table in that beautiful strength of confidence? And how about your grace?  Are you letting yourself receive grace? Are you being vulnerable? Are you receiving other people's opinions? Are you able to laugh at yourself, right? Those are the things that make for these people that we all clamor to be around. And that's what I want for you as you are leaders and evolving leaders. And as you interact with your team and your colleagues, and your family and your friends, think about those two G forces, your gravitas and your grace, and go forward. Goodwin graduates, bring that to the world because it will make a difference. And you know what? No one can take those things from you, no matter what is happening in the world. You have your Goodwin degree, you have your gravitas, and you have your grace.  You have that, you own that. Bring it forward.” — Keynote Speaker Lois Moran.

LeBow College of Business

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LeBow hosted separate virtual ceremonies for its undergraduate, graduate, DBA and PhD students on June 10. The college also offered a digital celebration kit and a way for faculty, staff and friends to send a message to this historic class.

A leading media and entertainment executive (and Drexel mom) also had a few words for the Class of 2020:

“Throughout my career, I have been the beneficiary of many extraordinary opportunities, many of which wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t have people who believed in me and mentored me. I believe in paying it forward, and I encourage each and every one of you to find a mentor, and then be a mentor.

 When I worked at WPVI (6-abc) in Philadelphia, I had an opportunity to participate in an ABC mentor program. My mentor was Tom Murphy… during one of our meetings, I asked him what he looked for in a person when he hires them. He said a good friend of his — Warren Buffet — once told him to look for three things: The person has to be bright. They have to have passion and they have to have lots of energy. And they have to have integrity. And then Mr. Murphy leaned across the desk and he said, ‘And if they don’t have the third, the first two don’t matter.’ Integrity. To me, that means doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” — Rebecca Campbell, chairman, Direct-to-Consumer and International, The Walt Disney Company (whose son is also a 2020 LeBow grad).

Pennoni Honors College

The Honors College held special recognition events for both its Custom-Designed Major students and for all seniors graduating with honors. The custom-design majors took part in a synchronous event on June 10 where graduates provided toasts and faculty, staff and Pennoni Honors College Dean Paula Marantz Cohen, PhD were on hand to congratulate and salute students.

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All Honors students were sent via email an asynchronous virtual time capsule to commemorate their time at Drexel, featuring a graduation video, comments from student speaker Vriti Khurana, student pictures and well-wishes from staff.

“Though I never imagined our commencement to be quite like this, this graduation is a testament to the resilience and unwavering commitment of the class of 2020. We could never imagine that the day we have been so anxiously waiting for would be in the middle of a global pandemic in the 21st century, but sometimes the world just takes us by surprise. For me, our commencement not only marks the end of a world we have become so comfortable living in every day, but also a new beginning, similar to the one Honors gave me four years ago.” — Vriti Khurana, Global Health Technologies Custom-Designed Major ’20.

School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems

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BIOMED offered video remarks from its dean and associate deans on June 10, as well as a “reading of names” for all undergraduate and graduate-level departing students. Additionally, a virtual yearbook was created using Flipgrad and contains video messages from other well-wishers.

One of my favorite quotes by Albert Einstein is, ‘The world we have made as a result of the level of thinking we’ve done thus far creates problems we cannot solve at the same level of thinking with which they were created.’ What is the new level of thinking required of engineers? I think the challenge for your generation of engineers is to fully accept your professional responsibilities, tempering your technical prowess with ethics. This is the new level of thinking that’s needed, because the old level of thinking has made a world that is profoundly technologically efficient in a way that is equally profoundly unjust and unsustainable, as we have well witnessed during this current health crisis.” — Paul W. Brandt-Rauf, MD, DrPH, ScD, dean and distinguished university professor of the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems.

School of Education

The School of Education celebrated their graduates on June 10 by creating a virtual ceremony landing page and video, and also offering the opportunity for them to walk in the school’s 2021 Commencement ceremony.

“Many of you are going to go on to become teachers, policy-makers, educational leaders. As an educator, I know the tremendous value of the work that you’re going to do and the great things that you’re going to do and I’m certainly proud of you.” — Interim Nina Henderson Provost Paul Jensen, PhD, said in a congratulatory video to School of Education grads.

Drexel's Dornsife School of Public Health celebrated its graduates with a recognition web page featuring videos from the school’s administration and faculty, from graduates and an alum, as well as from local and national public health luminaries congratulating their achievements.
Drexel's Dornsife School of Public Health celebrated its graduates with a recognition web page featuring videos from the school’s administration and faculty, from graduates and an alum, as well as from local and national public health luminaries congratulating their achievements.

Dornsife School of Public Health

Dornsife celebrated its graduates with a recognition web page featuring videos from the school’s administration and faculty, from graduates and an alum, as well as from local and national public health luminaries congratulating their achievements. The page also includes a downloadable Commencement Program and a Universal Declaration of Human Rights signed by Dean Ana Diez Roux, MD, PhD, for graduates to download as well.

“It’s an unprecedented time to be graduating with a public health degree. We have seen the COVID-19 pandemic sweep through our society with all that that has meant. We have seen a social movement against racism and recognition more than ever before of the fundamental role that racism and structural inequities play in health. All the issues that we study in public health, that we learn how to act on, that we advocate for, are front-and-center of today’s world. So, it’s really an incredible time to be graduating with a public health degree.” — Ana Diez Roux, MD, PhD, dean of the Dornsife School of Public Health, said in addressing the school’s Class of 2020.

Westphal College of Media Arts & Design

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Jacobie Smith Commencement Speech from Westphal College on Vimeo.

Westphal listed out all of their graduates on their virtual commencement page, and hosted a celebration on June 11 via YouTube Live featuring a powerful benediction from Reverend Perry Brisbon, director of the Drexel University Gospel Chorus; remarks from University and college administrators; and creative salutes from student speakers.

“Westphal Class of 2020, let’s be real for just a moment

I know these are scary times in the word, but today we shall pause for our enjoyment

To celebrate our academic achievements and our journeys of personal growth

Oh and how we cried yet survived having a virtual crit remote

We are truly conquerors Class of 2020 it’s been a long journey, for me six long years,

But because of our collective perseverance we can celebrate right now, right here.

Singing songs of relief and comfort to one another in different parts of a harmony

Learning to flaunt our own styles for evidence of individuality

Cause each of us has a unique purpose and story that paints a picture so beautiful

I’m getting goosebumps just talking about it, like how I feel when the air gets a spiritual


But this vision doesn’t work without your attendance.

It’s not enough to just exist, everyone we are called to show up and show out

Believe in our destiny to prosper in truth because there’s a zero tolerance for doubt

And to all the Negative Nancys who said we couldn’t prosper

Just stay tuned so you can witness us excel even higher

Shout out to all the patient faculty members for being so encouraging

Westphal isn’t perfect but those people listened to the things I found concerning

Reflecting on our anxieties

Their thoughts become words

Those words energized actions

Those actions oozing with purpose dripping like honey

I can see that the purpose for Westphal is sweet

And a treat

To our world cause we are truly unique

But our purpose does not end here. We have work to accomplish.

Kids to inspire and prejudice boundaries to demolish.

We shall not be finished until every child may be educated

With Equal access to basic resources and respect for those who are different is elevated

Westphal we have the power to use our creativity to make the world better for our neighbors and ultimately less painful

To choose not to use our talents for the greater good would be utterly shameful.

Please do not lose your zeal after this moment, Westphal do not get complacent

I’ll say it one more time for the folks in the back


Cause nothing about our Drexel experience is basic

So just reject all mediocrity for the sake of the situation

Cause doing what is right the first time around is always easier than remediation

We invested too much time and money into this experience to then walk out average

Learning from our difficult moments combined are what gives us leverage

It’s when we decide to stop learning that we accept defeat and lose

Lose our potential

Lose our opportunities

And lose access to breakthroughs

Our degrees present us with opportunities to level up and be the best versions of ourselves we can be

But in order to do that we must look at the reality

To identify problems but then contribute to the solutions creatively

We have the tools to do this seriously

With a flare of artistic whimsicality

This isn’t a call to action for tomorrow or some random year after,

This is number one on our to-do list currently

Matter of fact I’ll go ahead and challenge everyone who may be watching or listening

I challenge my mother, my friends,

My classmates, our current and upcoming deans

Our professors and yeah, I’ll even challenge your aunties

We can literally paint our own futures, cause Westphal we are visionaries

It won’t be easy to learn to listen or to not project our expectations on others

But when we remain open minded there will be an excess of communal success to discover

An abundance of hope, one of accomplishment and pride in our communities

That would move us ever so closer to that highly sought out unity

So Westphal, thank you so much for the tools that we all now possess

So we can move forward in our lives without ever having to regress

And I can’t speak for other schools, but with our Westphal degrees we’re seeing a lot clearer

Our full potential is now 2020 when we’re looking in the mirror.” — Jacobie Smith, Bachelor of Architecture ’20, Westphal undergraduate student speaker.