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British Columbia universities team up to dress UBC graduates after storm

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The University of British Columbia’s first in-person graduation ceremonies since 2019 have encountered an unexpected hurdle and will not look the same as normal.

Thousands of unique UBC ceremonial caps, dresses and hoods packaged in eight pallets are in a courier truck somewhere east of Hope and are unlikely to arrive in time for ceremonies due to the disruption trip from last week’s unprecedented storm, said Liz King, director of ceremonies and events at UBC.

Obviously, this is a minor inconvenience when you consider the tragic loss of life, damage and destruction in BC communities, King says. “Our hearts go out to all of those affected by the floods and landslides. “

The courier truck left the Gaspards Winnipeg storage facility, dress maker and partner of UBC, on Monday, November 15, and was due to arrive today. Fall congregation ceremonies begin tomorrow and continue through November 26.

The storm meant that delivery was no longer guaranteed.

King and the graduation team, especially Rodolfo Calero from the UBC Bookstore, studied their options and found a unique solution that ensures graduate students get their cap and gown experience.

Planning for the first in-person graduation ceremonies since the start of the pandemic was difficult in its own way, but this fall ceremony was truly the graduation from the unexpected, King said.

The most important thing for us is to make sure it is a wonderful experience for the graduates. We are working around the clock to do our best to provide this experience.

Instead of the normal 2,500 caps, gowns and hoods required for the fall convocation, many of which are custom designed to match degrees and education levels, 600 black gowns will be borrowed from the University of Victoria.

About 600 black coats were loaded into a truck at the University of Victoria on Sunday.  UBC is borrowing the gowns for graduation this week, after the university's own gowns could not be delivered due to travel disruptions caused by the unprecedented storm last week.  Credit: University of British Columbia

About 600 black coats were loaded into a truck at the University of Victoria on Sunday. UBC is borrowing the gowns for graduation this week, after the university’s own gowns could not be delivered due to travel disruptions caused by the unprecedented storm last week. Credit: University of British Columbia

The gowns will be cleaned daily and worn by graduate students the next day.

As tradition dictates, graduate students can keep their mortar boxes, 2,500 of which were collected and purchased from post-secondary institutions in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island including: Capilano University, BCIT, Emily Carr University of Art & Design, Douglas College and Langara. University.

At all of our institutions, we all know how important the graduation experience is to students, says King. Wearing academic badges makes the experience memorable for many of them.

The outfit of the cap and dress also maintains the level of the playing field, King adds.

UBC is borrowing caps and gowns from the University of Victoria for its graduation ceremonies this week, after the university's own gowns could not be delivered due to travel disruptions caused by the unprecedented storm of last week.  Credit: University of British Columbia

UBC is borrowing caps and gowns from the University of Victoria for its graduation ceremonies this week, after the university’s own gowns could not be delivered due to travel disruptions caused by the unprecedented storm of last week. Credit: University of British Columbia

When everyone is wearing the same dresses, there’s no feeling I’m not dressed well enough, so we can keep the events accessible to everyone, King says. We promise to make the dresses clean and ready for our friends at UVic, and we will return the favor to more than half a dozen schools that come to the rescue with mortars.

Jeanie Gunn, convocation and events manager at UVic, says the decision to loan the dresses to UBC was straightforward.

Convocation is the culmination and celebration of many years of dedication and focus, says Gunn. We know firsthand how difficult it can be to plan and execute a gathering of this size, especially while adapting to a global pandemic and province-wide transportation challenges. It has been an honor to do all we can to help our colleagues at UBC organize this special day for so many deserving graduates.

Fall congregation ceremonies are already different from previous years, as ceremonies are conducted at half capacity in order to comply with provincial health guidelines. Instead of eight ceremonies with 350 students crossing the stage, there will be 15 ceremonies, with 175 students graduating per ceremony.

This change follows a major change in 2020 where graduation ceremonies all took place virtually due to restrictions related to COVID-19 events. UBC is hosting a 2022 in-person celebration for all graduates who attended a virtual ceremony. (More details will be announced in the coming months.)

Left to right, UBC's Liz King and Rodolfo Calero and UVic's Jeanie Gunn load 600 caps and gowns on the UVic campus into a truck bound for UBC on Sunday.

Left to right, UBC’s Liz King and Rodolfo Calero and UVic’s Jeanie Gunn load 600 caps and gowns on the UVic campus into a truck bound for UBC on Sunday. Credit: University of British Columbia

For King, being able to act quickly and adapt to emerging issues while planning for events during a pandemic is essential.

There are hundreds of colleagues and volunteers on campus who want to make sure graduation is special for our students and their guests, no matter what is going on in the world, she says. Over the past 20 months we have become very good at pivoting and thinking outside the box because we need it for the students. When you see the pride on their faces when they accept their degrees, it is worth it.

EDITORS: Video clips available on a UBC delivery truck loaded with dresses borrowed from the UVic campus on Sunday.

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