Chancellor James Schmidt commended University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire 2020 graduates for overcoming challenges created by COVID-19 while displaying care and compassion for each other and the community.
"Graduates, this year has taught all of us that we do not know what the future holds or how the world around us could change," Schmidt said today during a virtual commencement ceremony to celebrate all 2020 Blugold graduates. "What we do know is that the knowledge you've gained and skills you've developed here are not time-sensitive. You've proved you can be flexible, problem solve and learn with empathy, the key outcomes of the rigorous, well-rounded educational core UW-Eau Claire is proud of. We call that excellence. Blugold excellence."
The Dec. 19 ceremony honored 702 Blugolds who graduated at the end of the fall semester and 1,433 May graduates whose ceremonies were canceled by the pandemic. The ceremony was broadcast live from Pablo Center at the Confluence, with some sections of the event taped, and the chancellor conferring degrees on graduates.
The virtual ceremony was one of many changes in the lives of graduates prompted by COVID-19, Schmidt said, noting that commencement is a time for students to celebrate their unexpected learning and growth along the college journey.
The chancellor congratulated all graduates during his address, and specifically commended nursing students and others entering health care careers who have and will continue to care for patients during the pandemic.
"As our front-line workers, we need you and appreciate you," Schmidt said. "Thank you for your dedication and the sacrifices you will make."
Student speaker Simon Jing Voon, an international student from Klang, Malaysia, called 2020 "a difficult year for all of us," but told graduates they should be proud of their accomplishments and grateful for their many experiences at UW-Eau Claire.
Voon said that during the pandemic graduates showed renewed appreciation for family and friends and discovered new skills and passions that they will remember long after they leave campus.
"Looking back to the good times should encourage us to press on in the bad times," Voon said.
The chancellor reminded graduates that their educational journey need not end with commencement, urging them to continue a lifelong quest for knowledge. Schmidt encouraged graduates to confidently face the future and make a difference in an ever-changing world.
"The question is not whether the world will change over the course of your lifetime, but how you will help change it for the better," Schmidt said.