In a year of firsts, the Middlebury Institute celebrated the achievements of 224 students from 26 countries with a virtual spring commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 16.
Transforming the beloved tradition of the MIIS Spring Commencement on the Colton Hall lawn into a series of meaningful virtual events has been an exercise in creativity for a group of dedicated faculty and staff over the past weeks and months. When it was clear that Shelter-in-Place orders and other California and Monterey County restrictions on public gatherings would not be lifted by early summer, planning efforts for the traditional event were turned to the virtual world.
Commencement signals the beginning of an important new phase in the lives and careers of graduates, and the annual ceremony marking the occasion is a highlight of the year for the whole Middlebury Institute community. “Our graduates are of the moment. The training and education we offer as an institution has never been more crucial,” shares Dean of the Institute Jeff Dayton Johnson. “I know the world will in some increment be better because our graduates are ready to make their mark in their chosen fields.”
Leading up to the virtual ceremony on Saturday, departments and different affinity groups, organized intimate gatherings in the days leading up to commencement, celebrating the connections that have formed between faculty and students over the course of their time together in Monterey.
In keeping with the Institute’s traditions around this event, Professor Mike Gillen began Saturday’s Commencement playing his bagpipes in front of the flags representing graduating students’ nations of origin. Middlebury President Laurie Patton, along with Dean of the Institute Jeffrey Dayton-Johnson, presided over a live celebratory event with addresses from Commencement Speaker George C. Lee and Student Speaker Rae Xui MATI ’21. Deans, program chairs and program coordinators recognized each graduating student with a special slide before the official conferring of degrees. “We are striving to find that balance,” Dayton-Johnson says, ”between honoring many of the traditions of the physical event and finding creative new ways to celebrate the achievements of our graduates.”