Making Commencement a Social Experience

Scylla Lopez (@S_lo22) is social media coordinator at San Jacinto College, a community college in Pasadena, Texas.

For the first time in San Jacinto College history, the college combined three campus commencement ceremonies into one big ceremony at Reliant Stadium, home of the Houston Texans. We, of course, increased our marketing efforts to make this experience something our graduates would not forget. I’d like to share a few things we did that prepared students for the changes and how we made commencement a fun and social experience.

Hashtag

Let’s face it, you need a hashtag these days for big events like commencement. We promoted #SJCGrad14 across our social platforms, on our website, in student emails and commencement programs. We created a digital flyer for all campus television monitors and that same flyer was placed in the windows at the enrollment services building. We also created signs promoting the hashtag and placed them around the areas where students were located on the day of commencement.

We used Tagboard to track all the social media posts. Check it out at tagboard.com/SJCGrad14.

Live Chat

With so many changes for commencement, students were guaranteed to have questions. I sat down with an enrollment services dean and a coordinator during a live chat,  conducted through Facebook and Twitter using #SJCGrad14. We answered student questions and posted relevant information about the ceremony.

Student Stories

Commencement is a perfect opportunity to find student success stories. Students reminisce about their experiences at the college and express how excited they are to graduate. We wanted to take advantage of that by asking students to write blog posts and sit for camera interviews. We also asked for their contact information. You never know, one of your grads could be the next Secretary of State.

Photo Opportunity

Provide a cool photo opportunity for graduates and their loved ones. Photos with loved ones after the ceremony are a must at commencement, so why not provide graduates with a photo booth type experience? We created a San Jac Certified backdrop for students to use before and after the ceremony.

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Congratulations Video

Get your college leaders involved! We met with our chancellor, deputy chancellor, president and three provosts to record a short and simple message for graduates. We also had Chancellor Dr. Brenda Hellyer  take a selfie with students before the ceremony.  Very cool!

 

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Staffing

It’s a team effort. Make sure you have someone from the college posting on social media throughout the day. While two of our communication coordinators were running around taking high quality pictures, I ran around with my iPhone and a video camera. It’s better to have at least two people posting on social media if possible. I worked with our district event planner. She posted photos from different views of the stadium while I was on the ground level.

Slide Show

Our event planner created a slide show that included photos of students, faculty and staff, and events from each campus. The slide show played on two monitors while family and friends waited for the ceremony to begin.

T-shirts

After the ceremony, staff handed out San Jac Certified T-shirts for all graduates. Who doesn’t love a free shirt?

And, I have to give a shout out to our Enrollment Services staff for working so hard to make this ceremony happen at Reliant Stadium. It was a very special experience for everyone involved.  Congratulations to all of the San Jacinto College students who are now San Jac Certified.

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What is your institution doing to make commencement more social?

 

4 responses to “Making Commencement a Social Experience

  1. Bravo! Commencement is a culmination of the graduates efforts. San Jac shares the experience with others who made it a reality. In so doing, you give hope to others that they can accomplish the same. Love San Jac Certified.

  2. Thanks for sharing all of the terrific things you did to make sure your new commencement format work well for graduates and your campus community. Capturing the excitement of the event through social media is a terrific idea to engage thousands who weren’t able to be there. And I love the special video message from the Chancellor, President and Provosts…that can be used to communicate those messages to other audiences, long after commencement is over. Congrats!

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