By Danielle Kutchel
2020 was the year that none of us expected, with widespread lockdowns removing our ability to travel and spend time with family and friends.
But for final year university students, 2020 robbed them of something else too: the ability to farewell those hallowed halls at a graduation ceremony.
Many universities held virtual ceremonies in 2020, with graduates recalling celebrating what should have been their big day with a glass of champers and a Zoom call.
The patient final year students at Federation University’s Berwick campus finally had their big day on Wednesday 14 April, marking their milestone amongst friends, family and faculty members at Bunjil Place.
One by one, graduates filed to the stage, resplendent in caps and gowns, for a contact-free presentation of their certificate.
For Dianne Knudsen, who received her Bachelor of Business majoring in Management and HR Management, the recognition of her years of hard work to earn her degree was particularly special after the mess of 2020.
She was among the cohort of 2019 graduates who missed out on their ceremony last year, who were given the opportunity to join the graduating cohort of 2020 in Wednesday’s event.
“It feels nice to cement the day, acknowledge the effort and get appreciated for the hard work,” she said.
“When it got cancelled we were worried we were just going to get skipped, so it felt really nice for the university to remember us because it’s been so long and last year was such a mess!”
In place of a ceremony last year, Dianne said she celebrated with some of her fellow graduates on a Zoom call.
“We were pretty bummed, but we didn’t want to have this many people in a theatre last year considering how crazy it was,” she said.
She and her friends managed to catch up in person at the ceremony for the first time since their final exams, giving them an opportunity to finally celebrate their achievements.
Now working for construction company Downer in the HR team, Dianne said the university gave her opportunities she would not have had access to otherwise.
“Fed Uni got my foot in the door and I appreciate that, because I wouldn’t be where I am now without them,” the graduate said.
Federation University Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Duncan Bentley said it was “fantastic” to see students finally able to graduate in person.
“Just to be able to physically be together and celebrate with family and friends was fantastic,” she said.
He added that the two cohorts of graduates on Wednesday – one from 2019, and one from 2020 – should be confident in themselves and their skills as they stepped into the world.
“Having gone through Covid, they have so much more resilience than they realise. They’ll be ready for anything, agile and adaptable.”