School of Public and International Affairs Hosts Commencement from a DELTA Classroom

Five people stand physically distanced in a classroom. Projectors and a television display the SPIA 2020 Commencement Ceremony

DELTA Classrooms are usually reserved for teaching, but in December, a collaboration between DELTA and the School of Public and International Affairs turned a classroom into a graduation hall. From left to right, Michael Struett, Darren Ley, Helen Hofelt, Irwin Morris and Shawn Colvin safely gather to hold SPIA's virtual commencement.

A collaboration between DELTA and the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) resulted in a one-of-a-kind commencement ceremony. 

Administrative Support Specialist Kelly Schwehm was tasked with organizing SPIA’s graduation ceremony under COVID-19 restrictions. She reached out to DELTA Classroom Services Manager Shawn Colvin and the Video Communications Services (VCS) team for technical support as the department attempted its first virtual commencement. 

The event took place on Friday, Dec. 4 in Park Shops 130, a DELTA Classroom, via Zoom

“We were so impressed with how they took on this unexpected project and arranged their schedules to help us. Everyone at SPIA really appreciates the time and extra effort Shawn and his team put into helping us pull off a virtual commencement ceremony for our students,” says Schwehm. 

VCS had a three-week window to help make the event a success. Infrastructure Coordinator Bob Klein helped organize a Zoom webinar to facilitate live presenters both on-site and remotely. The webinar also let graduates participate in the live event along with their family, friends and loved ones. 

Colvin worked with DELTA Instructional Media Production team members Associate Producer Michael Castro and Media Production Specialist Derek DeStefano to produce a video with recorded comments from Associate Dean for Research and Engagement Thomas Birkland. Media Systems Specialist Darren Ley coordinated video playback and the display of a collection of slides created by graduates with their pictures and programs of study so that each could be recognized and virtually presented with their degrees.

Helen Hofelt stands at the classroom podium in her cap and gown to deliver remarks.
Helen Hofelt graduated summa cum laude in the spring with a B.A. in political science.

The teams attended two practice sessions leading up to the ceremony to work on timing and comment delivery for host Irwin Morris, SPIA executive director and distinguished professor of humanities, and Michael Struett, chair of the department of political science. Jeff Diebold, chair of the department of public administration, delivered comments and presented degrees from his home, and graduate Helen Hofelt was also in the classroom to deliver remarks.

“We also included [the music of] ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ for an added touch at the beginning and end of the virtual ceremony,” says Colvin. 

“I hope this virtual graduation gave families the opportunity to feel proud of their students and that it gave the graduates a chance to reflect on their education and what they hope to achieve next. I hope this unique ceremony will serve as an example that we can overcome obstacles like the pandemic by working together as a team,” says Classroom Support Technician Brandon Joyner, the ceremony’s lead technician.

“I hope our 2020 graduates enjoyed this singular ceremony and will take [away] fond memories,” adds Morris. 

Congratulations to the #NCState20 graduates!