It was the first online graduation for the UP Open University (UPOU)—13 years after its education delivery mode went fully online.
On December 5, in its 24th commencement exercises, UPOU conferred degrees and titles upon the 412-strong Class of 2020 in a virtual ceremony. Sixty-one were in the undergraduate level and 351 in the graduate level.
Four graduated magna cum laude: Anne Margarette Bacomo and Kimberly Dollente with Bachelor Arts in Multimedia Studies (BAMS) degrees, and Mariebelle Balazuela and Klaudette Zarah Leisibach with Bachelor of Education Studies (BES) degrees.
There were three cum laude graduates: Katherine Joy Cruz (BAMS), Paulo Reyes (BES), and Candice Mae Tiongson (BAMS).
On the graduate level, 11 made it to the Chancellor’s List, which requires a general weighted average (GWA) of 1.00 to 1.14. Twenty-two were on the Dean’s List, which requires a GWA of 1.15 to 1.24.
While UPOU’s traditional commencement exercises may have been the only opportunity for some to finally meet their classmates and teachers in person, UPOU Chancellor Melinda Bandalaria pointed out that attendance by members of the graduating class was only at 70 to 80 percent. In her message, she asked the Class of 2020 to look at the online ceremony from a different perspective–that of UPOU’s advocacies on equity and inclusion.
The first virtual graduation ceremony harnessed the same technologies UPOU uses to provide inclusive education so as to also make sure each and every graduate, and their family members and loved ones, are part of the celebratory event.
“This is not just a ceremony, but a symbol of inclusion and equity that better demonstrates the openness of our University,” Bandalaria said.
In his message, UP President Danilo Concepcion reminded the graduates that a time of crisis should be used as an opportunity to further persevere, improve, and serve the country. “Live the UP spirit—unity and service rendered with honor and excellence—and prove that we, the University and its alumni, will not waver in our quest to find effective, alternative solutions to society’s problems.”
In his commencement speech, Senator Joel Villanueva urged the UPOU Class of 2020 to be “purposeful agents of change” toward growth and development. While the COVID-19 pandemic has, according to Villanueva, “laid bare the country’s deep digital divide and even intensified the existing inequalities in education,” he expressed hope that the disruption caused by the crisis would lead to a greater acceptance of distance education as an equally viable teaching and learning mode.
Villanueva called on the graduates to “revolutionize disruptions” by turning them into opportunities for positive change. “Each of you is a success story. You have the power to inspire, to build societies. Be a blessing in the midst of suffering.”
Speaking on behalf of the graduating class was Balazuela, an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) who left the country 26 years ago. She entered UP Diliman as a Fine Arts major in 1989 but wasn’t able to finish her degree because she went abroad and “life happened”. “I had to migrate to Spain to study, or so I thought. Instead of wearing a smock at an art studio, I had to wear a maid’s uniform and work as a nanny and domestic helper,” she revealed.
Using her 31-year journey to a baccalaureate degree and her experiences as an OFW, she told her fellow graduates, “Never give up on your dreams no matter how elusive they are. If you fail to climb that wall, do it again, and again, and again.”