"I expect January Graduation to be more special than ever"



We spoke to Head of Corporate Events at LJMU Dawn Fantin about our forthcoming Graduation ceremonies.

 

It is fantastic news that Graduation is going ahead in January for past cohorts, just recap for us on who is graduating and when.

All students who were eligible to attend in July 2020, January 2021, July 2021 and this coming January 2022 have been invited. It’s a total cohort, potentially, of 16,500 – compared to around 5,000 in a usual cycle. Not all will come, of course, but we are delighted to offer them the opportunity. We have overcome quite a few battles to get Graduation on, so we would like as many to come as possible.

It will be a fantastic, unprecedented three weeks with 39 ceremonies scheduled between the 10 - 27 January at the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, with robing and photography in the Metropolitan Cathedral.

 

There was huge relief when this catch-up was announced, how would you sum up the feedback you have had both internally and externally?

It’s been so incredibly positive. Even the Corporate Events team are really looking forward to it, despite the prospect of being on their feet for three weeks! Even in normal times, Graduation is a joyous occasion when families and friends get to feel the achievement of their loved-ones, so I expect January will be even more special.

I think overall, people are excited that they will be able to finish their time at LJMU with a fitting send off. Of course, as always, some will not be able to attend on the dates we have offered and we feel for those people who will be disappointed. The sheer numbers this time around also mean we are unable to offer any alternatives dates. On the plus side, we are working on a plan to invite those who miss out to one or more of our bicentenary events in 2023, where we will offer official graduation photography, so watch this space!

I think there’s extra special excitement that for the first time some students will be attending two ceremonies in the schedule, because they are graduating with a Bachelor’s and a Master’s! That’s certainly novel.

 

Is anything else different this year?

Public health contingencies mean we are spacing people out more in the cathedral – both the graduands and their guests, just to offer a level of comfort and peace of mind. The good news is we will still be able to offer three tickets per graduand.

It also means that there will be no other guests, nor Honorary Fellows, so everything will be fully focused on the student experience.

 

Give us a sense of the work behind the scenes from your team and others ….

It’s a huge university-wide effort to deliver graduation, and it’s been a bit of a roller-coaster in planning with delays and now the final go-ahead. So many people are involved as well as my Events Team – Registry, Facilities, Corporate Communications, JMSU – and they all play a vital role in its smooth running. Of course, additionally this time, we have COVID-related work to do, which includes providing each and every student with a special Graduation facemask.

 

And you’re still appealing for staff to volunteer their time to help out, correct?

Definitely. It won’t happen without them. Graduation requires a lot of hands on pumps. In particular we need people to usher both inside and outside the venues. Also, helpers with gowning and photography, fire wardens and first aiders. It would be of great help if people can come forward to volunteer before December 6 – that will help our planning no end.

Colleagues can do as much or as little as they want, but clearly they need to clear it with their line manager. Ceremonies last around an hour and they are weekdays and daytime, although there are several early evening ceremonies too. Staff should register their interest in helping via our webpage.

 

Happy it’s going ahead then?

So happy for our students yes. There was a lot of disappointment to say the least in the summer. Graduation is the pinnacle of our corporate events and the end product of what were all aiming for – student success. We’ve had some very passionate messages from students and to be honest, those have pushed us on because we can see what it means to people.


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