Campus News

UB celebrates graduates at virtual commencement

Graduation caps being tossed in the air.

UB has developed the #UBClassof2020 initiative to help graduates celebrate in the virtual world.


Published May 4, 2020

“We wanted to give the Class of 2020 an opportunity to celebrate virtually with the same level of excitement that we would normally celebrate in our physical world. ”
Rebecca Bernstein, director of strategy and digital communications
University Communications

Commencement has always been the high point of the academic year, the time when UB formally recognizes and congratulates its graduates for years of hard work and achievement.

And while the COVID-19 crisis has made “virtual commencements” the norm this year for colleges and universities across the country, the celebration will go on at UB, with units across campus working together to ensure this virtual commencement season is joyous and memorable for students and their families.

The buildup begins today, with the launch of #UBClassof2020, a campaign designed to bring the excitement of traditional commencement into the virtual world.

“We wanted to give the Class of 2020 an opportunity to celebrate virtually with the same level of excitement that we would normally celebrate in our physical world,” says Rebecca Bernstein, director of strategy and digital communications for University Communications, which is collaborating with the College of Arts and Sciences, Student Life and Alumni Engagement on the initiative. “Obviously, we have to do it differently because it’s not the same. And we wanted to do our best to bring that excitement to our virtual space.”

The aim is to “build excitement” in the weeks leading up to the commencement ceremonies, and “extend those great feelings” after the ceremonies, Bernstein explains.

#UBClassof2020 “is a place where all of our community can go to share our joy and show our respect and honor our graduates,” she says.

The initiative takes a two-pronged approach.

The social media aspect encourages graduates, their families and other members of the UB community to use the hashtag #UBClassof2020 when posting photos, well wishes and congratulatory messages to social media.

The second aspect is a special microsite, also dubbed #UBClassof2020, that will provide a home for all the social media posts from the campaign, as well as tools that graduates, their families and others can use to make their posts more special, and add festive elements to enhance their personal celebrations at home and make them more memorable.

These include:

  • Virtual swag. These tools that enhance social media posts feature UB-branded backgrounds celebrating graduation, fun Instagram lenses, Little Victor cut-outs and photo props, UB giphys and mortarboard-decorating inspirations.
  • UB Class of 2020 interactive photo mosaic. Seniors can share their favorite UB memories to create a larger, community-driven memento. Viewers can click on individual photos within the mosaic to see personal memories. Following commencement, a poster will be created of the finished mosaic.
  • Print-a-bulls. Graduates and their families can download and print a variety of items to help make the celebration at home more festive. These include car parade signs, home window signs, UB pennants and mortarboards to decorate.
  • Sign a Bull. Graduates can view and add their names and thoughts to a 3D model of a bull.
Use social media to take part in UB’s virtual commencement.

Any way you wish to celebrate, make sure you’re using #UBClassof2020 on your posts so we can share the love!

Parents and family members:

  • Share a childhood photo of your graduate on Instagram
  • Make a fun video of congratulations on Tik Tok
  • Send congrats to the Class of 2020 on Twitter
  • Tell us why you’re proud of your graduate on Twitter


  • Share your favorite UB memory on Instagram
  • Honor your favorite professor on Twitter
  • Send a shoutout to your best UB friend on Instagram Stories or Tik Tok
  • Share your biggest accomplishment on Twitter


  • Send congrats to the Class of 2020 on Twitter
  • Share your own commencement day photo on Instagram
  • Share your favorite UB memory on Twitter
  • Share your best piece of advice for our newest alumni on Twitter

And don’t forget to post photos of your at-home celebrations on Instagram!

Congratulations Class of 2020!

Other activities featured in the campaign include a mortarboard decorating contest and a virtual toast, where seniors are encouraged to come together at 2 p.m. May 13 for a simultaneous champagne toast and social media post.

The microsite will be accessible through the end of May.

“We collectively as a UB family have the opportunity to show how much we care for the people who are graduating,” Bernstein says of the #UBClassof2020 campaign. “We can go out of our way to make their day special.”

All this excitement leads up to commencement’s “main event,” the individual school and college’s ceremonies, which will take place this spring via the MarchingOrder platform.

Jocelyn Jakubus, interim director of university events, says the platform provides university-wide standardization while allowing each school or college to modify its individual commencement site to meet its needs.

All the sites will feature several video elements, including an open declaration, a welcome from Provost A. Scott Weber, remarks from President Satish K. Tripathi and remarks from the unit’s dean.

The units can add more video elements in keeping with their traditional in-person ceremonies, such as remarks from student speakers or an alumni message, or social media elements.

All sites will feature slides of each graduate, although the information that is included on the slides, such as photos, degree, academic major or personal message, is determined by the individual unit.

Each school or college will have a specific link for its commencement site, which will go live at the time and date the unit has selected for its “ceremony.”

Commencement season kicked off on May 1 with the ceremony for the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. The School of Dental Medicine’s ceremony follows on May 8, with the remainder of ceremonies scheduled from May 15-17. The Educational Opportunity Center will honor its graduates on May 20.

Some 6,027 students are candidates to receive 6,600 degrees and certificates this commencement season.

In announcing last month that UB would hold its spring commencement ceremonies virtually, President Satish K. Tripathi acknowledged that while it was disappointing to everyone that traditional ceremonies would not be held this spring, “this is a necessary decision given the unprecedented circumstances we face. As with all decisions we have made during these uncertain times, the health and well-being of our entire UB community is our guidepost and our priority.”

He noted that while difficult, “this crisis has shown UB at our very best — our resilience, our creativity, our innovation, our adaptability.”

“As we look hopefully toward a brighter future, let me reiterate how appreciative I am of the incredible work and accomplishments of our faculty, students and staff.”

UB hopes to recognize 2020 graduates during on-campus commencement at a later date.