Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Benguet State University (BSU) does not prevent the graduates from capping off their college journey as the premier state university will be holding its 96th Commencement Exercises in a virtual graduation ceremony on July 9, 2020 streamed via its FB Page.
“This is the pandemic time and we have to go away from social gathering in obedience to the health protocols from the higher authorities and to avoid the spread of the COVID-19,” said BSU President Felipe Salaing Comila.
He added: “We are placing some kind of juxtaposition of face to face and virtual. What we did during our face to face graduation will also be done in the virtual.”
According to Comila, the second virtual graduation ceremony will feature the baccalaureate service spearheaded by the pastors and ministers from La Trinidad Ecumenical Churches (LTEC), achievement and recognition of BSU’s best, and the confirmation and reading of the graduates.
“All the elements of graduation are complied with short of the physical presence of the students. The way to celebrate now is through virtual atmosphere where the graduates will see themselves graduating virtually,” he stated.
This year, a total of 646 BSU students will be graduating from the three BSU campuses: La Trinidad; Bokod; and Buguias.
Of the total graduating class, 29 are of Doctorate degree programs, 107 masters degree programs, 29 post baccalaureate diplomas and certificates, and 481 baccalaureate degree programs.
Under the baccalaureate degree, 57 graduating students are from the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM), 58 graduating students from College of Engineering and Applied Technology (CEAT), 121 College of Agriculture (CA), 21 from the College of Forestry (CF), 12 from the College of Home Economics and Technology (CHET) and 110 from the College of Teacher Education (CTE). There are 14 students from the Institute of Human Kinetics (IHK), three from the Institute of Information and Technology (IIT), two from the Institute of Public Administration (IPA). The BSU Bokod Campus has 21 graduates and 61 from Buguias Campus.
One of the challenges faced in digitizing face to face activities is its contextualization and translation of meaning. With this, a production team was formed to ensure that the virtual graduation will translate the value, symbol, and meaning of the graduation rites.
The virtual production team travelled around Benguet to document selected BSU graduating students and hand them their togas, diplomas, and awards for them to feel and experience the excitement of being a part of the celebration despite the challenges in their journeys, including the pandemic.
“Sobrang saya ko dahil sa maraming rason. Masaya ako na finally, magtatapos na ako sa college at mas sobrang ikinagagalak ko na nakita kong masaya ang parents ko habang pinapasuot yong toga sa akin (I am so happy because of many reasons. One is because finally, I have finished my college degree and I am very glad to witness how joyful my parents were while they are putting my toga on,” said Joanna Camille Lapito, one of the graduates from the College of Engineering and Applied Technology (CEAT).
Despite the challenging year, the graduates have experienced quality education through blended learning.
“The BSU gave its best to provide our students quality education. Teachers were trained to operate online classes and blended learning platforms. We are reminded to be flexible and understanding given the students’ situation and problem on internet accessibility and infrastructures,” stated Engr. Leo Dumalhin, Dean of CEAT.
He shared since “we already started conducting virtual graduation, through time, the students gradually accepted that this is now the new normal and we have to adapt form the situation.”
The virtual graduation may not be as exciting as the face to face graduation we used to conduct but at least it will suffice the feeling of joy of the graduates especially that today’s context is different from last year’s virtual graduation.
Now, we will be watching an actual handling of the diploma and putting on of the toga by the parents.
“Four, five, or six years prior to your entry in this university, there was a mission that you showed and that is to finish your degree. Now, you are obliged to practice what you have learned and acquired—skills, talents, and the knowledge. I bless and wish you that you would practice what is expected of you. Go out and contribute it to the world”, Comila ended. By Casserene A. Fernandez