After an academic year in which nothing was traditional, the University of Connecticut celebrated a welcome return to tradition with five days of in-person commencement ceremonies held outdoors at the home of UConn’s football team, Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.
In addition to welcoming back class of 2020 graduates to walk during two ceremonies, the School’s two doctorate in social work, 16 bachelor of social work (BSW), and 146 master of social work (MSW) graduates were honored during proceedings held on Saturday, May 8; Tuesday, May 11; and Wednesday, May 12, respectively. Degrees for the entire class of 2021 were officially conferred during a virtual ceremony broadcast via YouTube on May 8, as they had been last year for the class of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of UConn’s in-person ceremonies.
“Every year, I commend graduates on having made it through, persevering, multitasking, tending to your loved ones, and making room for everything when it seems there is never enough time. This year, you had the unique experience of completing most of your time in the major amid a once in a century, worldwide pandemic,” UConn School of Social Work Dean Nina Rovinelli Heller said during her address at the BSW ceremony, which was shared with graduates of the School of Business and the Neag School of Education.
“This affected your experience here, at home, and in the field in unprecedented ways. And yet, you persevered,” she said. “This bodes well for your ability to bring your best to your new profession and to the people and communities you serve.”
Heller acknowledged that the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and systemic racism are impacting the world and School of Social Work graduates.
“As I said at Convocation last August, there has never been a more urgent time for social work, and for you, as professional social workers. The world, the nation, our state, and our communities need you,” she said. “You have answered the call for a vocation that centers respect for the wellbeing of individuals and communities, the need for and value of diversity in all our spaces, the commitment to racial, social and economic justice, and professional and ethical standards. You are ready.
“Whether you joined social movements and protests, provided testimony at the state capitol, wrote opinion pieces, and/or focused on the development of skills and knowledge to prepare you to be your own kind of social work warrior, you heeded the call. You are social workers,” she continued. “I could not be prouder of each of you – and I am particularly proud to have you join the profession that I have loved for decades.”
The week of festivities will conclude with the School of Social Work virtual graduate recognition ceremony, premiering on the School’s YouTube channel on Friday, May 14 at 6 p.m. The video will remain available for viewing after the premiere.