Congratulations to Class of 2020!

Due to the coronavirus measures, University College Utrecht’s bi-annual celebration for graduating students went online.

university college utrecht commencement ceremony
From top left clockwards: Betsy Middleton, Claire TJ Querio, Esther Greutink and Laura Birbalaité

Streamed to students and their families all over the world, the online Commencement Ceremony was still recognizable as the festive event it always is.

The College’s Dean James Kennedy opened the hour-long celebration welcoming all virtual audiences. He was followed by Betsy Middleton as the Class Salutatorian. From the stage in Dining Hall, she looked at what will follow next:

“It is difficult to look at the world as it is right now and have a great faith in the future. We are a generation entering the job market at one of the worst recessions in history (...)But make no mistake: this is our moment. It’s time for us to take the stage. The corona pandemic has disrupted our plans, but it has also offered us a great opportunity to pause and reflect. (…) At this moment we should remember that we have the opportunity to make a great impact as we leave UCU more knowledgeable, well-rounded and worldly than when we arrived. We can strive to leave the world better than we found it, better for everyone.”

On the same stage, the Class Valedictorian Esther Greutink addressed her fellow students:

“As a literature student, I spent a lot of time in the past three years buried in between of the pages of books. One of my favourite authors, Ali Smith, writes: ‘Always be reading something.’ Of course, it is not literally meant that you should always your nose stuck in a book, reading words on a page. Instead, it means that you should always be reading the world. That, I think, is exactly what UCU education prepares us for, by both encouraging critical thinking and through having these wonderful permeable boundaries between years, between disciplines and between nationalities. It teaches us to become better readers of the world.”

In between of reading out the names of all 180 graduates, there were intermezzos by further two graduating students: Laura Birbalaité playing Rachmaninoff and Ciurlionis, a composer from her home country Lithuania, on the piano, and Claire TJ Querio with her poem “Starting to Say Goodbye”:

I was ready to be ready
to say this goodbye.
I was ready to be ready
to experience all the lasts.
I was ready to be ready
to turn the last thing in.

and now that all my milestones have changed face,
now that I have gone without the lasts I expected,
I guess what I’m starting, with this commencement,
is to say goodbye to the goodbye I had planned,
and instead let campus say goodbye to me."


university college utrecht commencement ceremony
Graduated! A still image from the online Commencement Ceremony.