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Watch now: Illinois Wesleyan University chalk tradition comes full circle

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BLOOMINGTON — Mark Brodl, provost and dean of faculty, was supposed to read the names of this year’s graduates at Illinois Wesleyan University's commencement.

Instead, he wrote their names in chalk on Thursday morning, one of several activities designed to help make up for the traditional commencement ceremony being postponed until Aug. 2 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re calling out each student visually instead of orally,” said President Georgia Nugent.

Brodl, Nugent and Karla Carney-Hall, vice president of student affairs and dean of students, were among several people writing the names of each of the 392 graduates who would have been part of Sunday’s commencement. Forty-one are December 2019 graduates, the rest are spring 2020 graduates, including May term and summer graduates.

“The students have made their mark at Illinois Wesleyan,” said Carney-Hall. “We wanted to help them make that mark in a tangible way.”

The idea for writing the name of each graduate around Aspiration Fountain came from Kevin Carey, director of student involvement.

“As freshmen, we invited them to write their goals for their time at Wesleyan” around the fountain, said Carney-Hall. “We would have asked them to consider their next goals during commencement.”

This year’s graduating seniors were the second class of freshmen to write their goals around the fountain in the Egbers Quadrangle, dedicated in 2015.

“This wraps a Wesleyan tradition around another Wesleyan tradition,” said Brodl, after chalking his share of names.

Each student will get a video of the event, one of several “virtual” activities designed to help make up for cancellation or postponement of events traditionally held as part of graduation.

On Wednesday, 19 international students from seven countries took part in a virtual international students graduation via the Zoom teleconference platform.

Illinois State, Illinois Wesleyan universities create special funds to help students

It’s an event IWU’s International Office hosts every year to which each graduating international student invites a faculty or staff member, receives a commemorative stole specific to their country and has their picture taken with IWU’s president.

“It’s a way to recognize their journey and adventure and bring them together one last time,” said Robyn Walter, international student/scholar adviser.

Walter said, “Our IT wizards enthusiastically partnered with us to make this happen.”

The event included remarks by Nugent and others as well as a video with music and photos of the students during their years at IWU.

After each put on their stole, the individual student and Nugent were paired on the computer screen to have their picture “together,” said Walter. “It ended up being very meaningful for them.”

Nevertheless, after numerous virtual meetings, it was nice to get together face to face, even if the faces were behind masks on a chilly campus. Chalking duties were spaced so no more than 10 people were gathered at any given time. 

“You begin to think the world comes in two dimensions,” said Nugent.

“It’s fun to actually see other people again,” she said. “This is good for us and good for the students.”


Photos: Names of Illinois Wesleyan University graduates recognized in chalk during coronavirus

Contact Lenore Sobota at (309) 820-3240. Follow her on Twitter: @Pg_Sobota

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