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Chemnitz University of Technology Hold First Digital Commencement Ceremony

Ceremony on the couch: 330 graduates, doctorates, and post-doctorates at Chemnitz University of Technology experienced the premiere of a somewhat different ceremonial farewell on March 20, 2021 - but that didn't stop anyone from tossing their caps in the air.

Saturday, March 20, 2021: 330 graduates joined the first digital graduation ceremony at Chemnitz University of Technology via zoom at 2 p.m. sharp. Caps could be ordered in advance from the university store, diplomas were made available online for download. Master's graduate André Claren chilled champagne for the occasion. "Quite atypical for the home office, I even dressed up," laughs the former student of Intercultural Communication (IKK).

Around 2,000 young men and women finished their studies in Chemnitz in 2020 and in the first weeks of 2021, including around 500 international students. In addition, there are more than 150 doctoral graduates as well as five post-doctoral graduates. After the ceremonial welcome by moderator Anja Hurtado Medina, President Prof. Dr. Gerd Strohmeier gave them some advice. They should pause and look back on their studies and be happy about what they have achieved. But they should also look ahead and set goals for their future, if they haven't already done so, and pursue these goals as tenaciously as they did their studies at the university. As a self-confessed Star Trek fan, the university president compared the past pandemic year to the Kobayashi-Maru test from the well-known films. The test is supposed to put people's strength of character to the test and test their behavior in hopeless situations. Somewhat involuntarily, we have all had to face such a test in recent months.

Intimate moments despite lack of closeness

Poetry slammer and former Chemnitz University of Technology student Erik Leichter addressed the worldwide audience in a similarly profound but more humorous way. The native of Zwickau made a name for himself in the scene in the past and won, among other things, the Saxon poetry slam championship. With wit and sharply formulated punchlines, he told of his student days at Chemnitz University of Technology and reviewed the past year with all its corona-related exceptional situations. "That was definitely a highlight of the event," says André Claren. "Erik summarized the situation well and gave the celebration a personal touch with his own experiences." Because, in the graduate's opinion, the event came up a bit short despite all the efforts. "You could tell how much effort the organizers put in and how much work went into the entire celebration. Still, that can't make up for the lack of closeness and interaction with the other graduates. I would have loved to look at the graduates' beaming faces." Nevertheless, the former IKK student was solemn in his mood to honor the graduates. Accompanied by "March No. 1" from "Pomp and Circumstance" by Edward Elgar, presenter Anja Hurtado Medina called out the names of the male and female participants. At the end, caps were thrown into the air digitally - and many certainly joined in within their own four walls.

Emotional farewell

Looking back, the last two program points were the most successful moments of the graduation ceremony for André Claren: Beforehand, the participants were asked to submit their most beautiful university moments in words and pictures. The result was a colorful and emotional smorgasbord of memories. "My most beautiful moment at Chemnitz University of Technology was the day I met my future partner," reported graduate Daniela Jochim. For Hannah Schmidt-Schwope, who followed the online celebration from her sofa together with her friend Isabel Köder, the friendships gained are the most valuable thing about college. Other graduates fondly remembered great professors, the family atmosphere at the university, and great evenings with international students.

The final scene of the graduation ceremony was no less emotional: during the event, participants were able to take photos of themselves and send them online to the ceremony's organizing team. The latter quickly crafted a picture mosaic on the computer from all the submissions, which is representative of the traditional group photo. "The many interactive options were really great," agrees André Claren. "It really made the whole event personal, considering the circumstances."

Julita Schmidt, who pulled the organizational threads, also looks back with satisfaction on a successful celebration without any technical problems. Despite a dress rehearsal, technical issues remained the organizers' biggest concern. "It's quite different to put together a digital event instead of a real one," says the university’s head of event organization and merchandising.

Welcome to TUCalumni

After the festivities, the participants were able to meet for a digital get-together. While some say goodbye to Chemnitz with melancholy, others remain loyal to the university - be it by continuing their studies at the university, by taking advantage of TUCed's continuing education programs, but also by becoming members of the Society of Friends of Chemnitz University of Technology or through the university's alumni portal. André Clarens is also staying in Chemnitz. He currently supports international students as a career coach in the university's Career Service. "Back then, I came to Chemnitz from my home in Bavaria and immediately felt at home. Nothing has changed in that respect. So for the time being, I'll stay here."

By the way: many alumni follow Chemnitz University of Technology on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter or join the university's LinkedIn group or the Xing group.

(Authors: Isabel Möller, Mario Steinebach / Translation: Chelsea Burris)

Matthias Fejes

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