Editor’s note: Claudia Ortega-Lukas is a graphic designer working in the Office of Marketing & Communications. Below, she shares her heartfelt appreciation for her Wolf Pack family and everyone who helps put together commencement each year.
Commencement. One word that summarizes what we do.
As a graphic designer for the University, I spend all year creating materials to engage with prospective students, always communicating the benefits and highlights of our awesome university. For a weekend each semester, I get to see our students graduate. It’s the cherry on the top of what I do all year long, of what I, along with a very large group of people, do for weeks (months, really) in preparation for the actual Commencement ceremonies.
I’ve been working in the Office of Marketing & Communications for many years, and 2021 Spring Commencement takes the prize for the most complex operation. In general, spring ceremonies are always more elaborate than winter (more awards, more graduating students, etc.), and earlier this year we had resigned ourselves to repeating what we did in 2020 due to the pandemic: virtual ceremonies. The benefit of those was that many of the logistics were eliminated. No parking, no signage, no seating charts – all of which made my life easier.
Then came the announcement from University President Brian Sandoval on March 29 that we would have in-person graduation ceremonies. We went from one virtual commencement to eight in-person ceremonies and one virtual ceremony in the blink of an eye! By the way, these eight ceremonies had some new rules we had to play by that we had never previously had to account for: social distancing guidelines, limited ticket allocation per student (including implementing a new ticketing system) and even a new venue (where no high heels could be worn). Before you knew it, we were working at full speed on all the components needed for multiple successful commencement ceremonies.
A novel could be written about all that goes on in preparation for commencement every year. To give you an idea, our meetings included representatives from these units throughout the University: Admissions and Records, Office for Prospective Students, Grad School, Disability Resource Center, Facilities Maintenance Services, University Police, Development and Alumni Relations, Lawlor Events Center, Joe Crowley Student Union, Parking Services, Nevada Wolf Shop, Office of Information Technology, Office of the President, Office of Marketing and Communications, Nevada Athletics, University Libraries, Safety and Security, and Moon Lighting and Sound. I’m probably leaving some out. This group is led by Melisa Choroszy, the associate vice president of Enrollment Services. She is our fearless commencement leader, making decisions no one wants to make and making sure all is done on time and on budget.
In these meetings, plans and discussions range from the chairs graduates will sit in to security, flower sales, signage, live streaming and captioning, bathrooms, musicians, special guests, stage, maps, seating charts, ticketing, video equipment, wireless networks, emergency plans – you get the idea. The highlights of this year’s plans were plywood, disinfecting supplies, tickets and absolutely no high heels. Funny story: Facilities had to purchase 500 sheets of plywood for the event and for several meetings Melisa kept saying: “Protect my plywood!”
Supporting the various teams is always intense. We printed more than 200 badges for staff and volunteers and created 268 slides for the Lawlor Events Center marquee with all the names of the graduates, with a similar number of social media, video and monitor slides. And that’s just a small part of what we do. Curbs are painted, and flowers are planted. Plans are put in place for everything: what roads and entrances cars and guests will use, where special guests park, in which gates grads do come in, what’s the plan in case of an emergency, what do we do if it rains ... The team goes through the details over and over again. And we always know something will not go as planned, but someone always figures it out.
The intensity of the challenge is always met with the dedication of many people who put many hours into making sure all goes smoothly to ensure the grads enjoy graduation day. There is not one thing we do that doesn’t require several people involved: editors, web specialists, gardeners, carpenters, office admins, IT and video specialists, photographers, writers, student workers, PR specialists, electricians, guards, janitors, painters, the list goes on and on and even includes a few dogs from time to time.
That’s why, after one of the most intense series of commencement ceremonies in our history (EIGHT in total, plus one virtual, where we recognized TWO graduating classes for a total of 8,350 degrees!), I just want to say to all of you – faculty, staff, students, volunteers – all who helped in ways big and small, to make the 2021 Commencement Ceremonies a success:
You make happiness happen.