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McGill holds first in-person convocation since onset of COVID-19 pandemic

McGill held its Fall 2021 Convocation ceremonies at Place des Arts on Nov. 25 and Nov. 26, marking the first time that convocation has taken place in-person since Fall 2019. There were four separate ceremonies, two on each day, to honour the approximately 700 students who completed undergraduate, graduate, or certificate programs at McGill as of August 2021.

The university announced that the Fall 2021 convocation would be in-person in an Oct. 22 university-wide email sent on behalf of principal and vice-chancellor Suzanne Fortier. In an interview with The McGill Tribune, Sireena Divecha, a member of the Fall 2021 graduating class who earned a degree in materials engineering, recalled waiting anxiously for the news.

“I’m so happy. It’s the first convocation since COVID that’s going to be in-person,” Divecha said. “I’m so glad I made it. All through summer I was hoping, waiting for the email where they said it is going to be in person.”

The university implemented a number of COVID-19 safety measures, such as checking vaccination status and enforcing mask mandates, to protect graduates and guests. Sina Hashemi, a member of the Fall 2021 graduating class who received a certificate in oral and maxillofacial surgery, spoke to the Tribune after the first convocation service. Hashemi expressed gratitude that the university, in his experience, closely adhered to COVID-19 measures. 

“[The ceremony] was very nice,” Hashemi said. “I noticed they took all the precautions, like cleaning the microphone after every speaker. It was really nice to be back and see everybody, all the graduates sitting together with their families and having live music and whatnot.”

Aliia Shakirova, a member of the Fall 2021 graduating class who obtained a master’s degree in atmospheric and oceanic sciences, felt for her friends who only had online ceremonies.

“I had a few friends who graduated last year, and they feel very sad that they don’t have any convocation in person,” Shakirova said. “I am from Russia, and I was doing a Bachelor’s in Moscow and we didn’t have any sort of convocation at all, so that’s like the first experience for me, so I’m very glad.”

Frédérique Mazerolle, a McGill media relations officer, explained in an email to the Tribune that in-person ceremonies are being planned for those who had virtual convocations—the Spring 2020, Fall 2020, and Spring 2021 classes.

“This Fall’s ceremonies only included the Fall 2021 Convocation cohort,” Mazerolle wrote. “However, the University is actively planning the in-person ceremonies our past cohorts so richly deserve, the first of which will take place in Spring 2022. Invitations […] will be sent in the coming months. McGill will continue to take a prudent planning approach that allows us to adapt as the health and well-being of our community remains a top priority.”

In addition to its convocation ceremonies, the university held an online Indigenous Scarf Ceremony on Nov. 22—a tradition it introduced in 2011— to recognize the 91 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit students in the Fall 2021 graduating class. This year’s ceremony involved speeches, live music from Mi’kmaq performer Don Barnaby, and the presentation of specially-designed scarves. In his speech, provost and vice-principal (Academic) Christopher Manfredi commended the graduates for their hard work and reaffirmed the university’s dedication to reconciliation.
“You have many reasons to be proud of yourselves and to feel confident in your abilities,” Manfredi said. “As you embark on your next chapter, know that McGill will continue the important work outlined in our 52 calls to action with the aim of truth and reconciliation with Indigenous communities.”

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