More than 200 graduates from OCAD University’s Classes of 2020 and 2021 gathered in-person on November 20 for the first time since the pandemic to celebrate their significant achievement.
The Waterfront Campus buzzed with conversations and celebratory toasts as graduates posed with their families for selfies and “step-and-repeat” photos in graduation caps and gowns they were unable to wear.
For Shahrzad Amin, it was a reunion she could not miss and she looked forward to reconnecting with her peers in person.
The pivot to online learning during her final year in 2020 meant she was unable to make an in-person presentation of her thesis project for her Master of Fine Arts, Interdisciplinary Art, Media and Design.
Her project was to be a large audio-visual sculptural installation (6 x 20 feet) highlighting “a social openness and necessity for global international connectivity, by applying the figure of the arch bridge (symbolic for Iran’s once important status as a connector between civilizations along the path of trade routes) as a metaphor for overcoming cultural distances.”
Instead, she created a miniature model of her life-sized sculpture on her desk at home, which she presented virtually to her faculty members.
“I don't know how to describe the feeling. To say the least, I was disappointed. I couldn’t even install my work. I just made a PowerPoint like a high school student and sent it to my advisors. They wrote back with some feedback and that was it. That was graduation,” she said.
Graduates recognized for their commitment to completing their degrees
OCAD U President and Vice-Chancellor Ana Serrano warmly welcomed graduates and their families, marking the occasion by recognizing they had displayed “tremendous perseverance in completing (their) studies during a pandemic.
“You had to find new ways of experimenting outside the corridors of our campus buildings. You adapted to new ways of engaging with your peers and faculty members. But you did it. Even if there were times when you felt you couldn’t,” she said.
Noting that “our lives had moved past the pandemic in different ways,” Serrano poignantly underscored that “merely moving on was no longer enough.”
She encouraged graduates to take action to “re-imagine our communities in a post-COVID world. I am confident that every one of you here today has the skills and the knowledge to do your part in using art and design for good—to transform the world and to find solutions to the challenges we face,” she said.
The power of art and design
OCAD U Vice-President, Academic and Provost Dr. Caroline Langill joined President Serrano in congratulating the graduates.
She noted that the wide array of themes, reflected in the works presented at the annual graduate exhibitions in 2020 and 2021, were powerful.
“Your works spoke of loneliness and isolation but also of adaptability, hope, and experimentation. That is the power of art and design—it has a unique way of meeting us where we are and helping us to move forward in good times and in difficult times,” said Langill.
Graduates from the Classes of 2020 and 2021 will be invited to participate in the 2023 or 2024 convocation ceremonies, in person, so they can experience the joy of crossing the stage at the Roy Thomson Hall.
Photo credit: Nathan Henry