Life for an online student means a lot of video chats, texts, and emails, not much face-to-face contact. That’s why every year just before graduation, ECPI University hosts an online graduate reception where students and their families can meet one another, as well as faculty and staff, in person. This year’s event was hosted at The Harbor Club in Norfolk, Virginia, and included food, a photo booth, giveaways, and gifts for graduates, as well as panoramic views of the Elizabeth River and the behemoth U.S. Navy ships that give Norfolk its distinct character.
“This is honestly amazing,” said accounting graduate Royal Gethers. “There’s this beautiful waterfront, everyone’s mingling, great networking, an opportunity to match faces with names. It’s wonderful, a beautiful setting and ideal for the event.” And while it was a great opportunity for students to meet the people they had worked with across a distance and to network with each other, the event’s primary purpose was simply to recognize the graduates’ achievements and to give them a chance to bask in the satisfaction of a job well done.
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“We’re here to celebrate the success of our graduates,” said Vice President of eLearning and Online Education, Aaron Wettstein. “After all their hard work and dedication, they deserve it. We hope that more and more graduates will make the trip each year to participate in graduation weekend so that we can meet them and congratulate them in person.”
Heidy Mendoza, graduate of the BS Radiologic Sciences program, celebrated her success in person and on social media. “Finally met my online classmates,” she wrote on Instagram, captioning a photo of her with fellow graduates April Gates and Amber Blondino. Amber also shared their group picture on Facebook, saying, “Glad these ladies made it down to Norfolk so we can all meet in person and walk the stage together tomorrow.”
As they turn their attention to their next steps in their careers, education, and personal goals, this event gave these graduates a chance to stop, look backwards, reflect on all that they had accomplished, and join the crowd of graduates, spouses, children, and parents whose conversations and laughter carried through the room, across the balcony, and out to the river.